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Putin denies Russia behind Finland pipeline damage

Published by , Editorial Assistant
World Pipelines,

President Vladimir Putin has denied that Russia damaged an undersea gas pipeline between Finland and Estonia.

Investigators found a rupture on the Balticconnector pipeline was caused by mechanical force.

Finnish officials said they could not rule out a state actor being involved.

Putin said it was "rubbish" to blame Russia, and the damage could have been caused by an anchor or earthquake. The pipeline shut on 8 October 2023 as operators noted a sudden drop in pressure. Additionally, a telecoms cable was also damaged.

Helsinki said it believed the leak on the 77 km (48 mile) gas pipeline was caused by "external" activity. Suspicion fell on Russian sabotage as "retribution" for Finland joining NATO in April this year (2023).

Estonia's Defence Minister Hanno Pevkur said the damage must have been done "by something greater than a diver or an unmanned submersible", ERR News reported.

But the Russian leader said he did not even know the pipeline existed and that the accusations were "to distract attention from the terrorist attack carried out by the West against Nord Stream".

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said if the incident was proven to be deliberate, it would be met by a "united and determined response" from NATO allies.

"Allies expressed strong solidarity with Estonia and Finland as they work to establish the facts. NATO and allies are sharing information to support that effort," Stoltenberg said.

Jüri Saska, commander of the Estonian Navy, has said he was "not going to be drawn into speculation" over the cause of the damage.

Finnish authorities said damage to the cable and pipeline damage happened at two different locations in Finland's Exclusive Economic Zone.

"The discovered damage could not have been caused by normal use of the pipeline or pressure fluctuations," Finnish Prime Minister Petteri Orpo told journalists. Other possible causes such as seismic activity had already been ruled out.

The pipeline is Finland's only direct link to the wider European Union's gas network. Orpo said there were enough alternative sources of gas to ensure the country's energy security was not at risk.

The incident has revived concerns about energy security following the Nord Stream pipeline blasts last year.

The Baltic-connector pipeline opened in 2020, and is used to send gas between Estonia and Finland, depending on which country is most in need at any point.

It has been Finland's only natural gas import channel since Russian imports were halted in May 2022. Natural gas accounts for about 5% of Finland's energy consumption.

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