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Haavisto: Possibility that Nord Stream damage was deliberate cannot be ruled out

While Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto did not directly address the possibility that Russia was responsible for the damage, he noted that the involvement of a state actor could not be ruled out at this time.

Haavisto said that the situation posed a wide range of risks to both the environment and shipping operations. Image: Petteri Sopanen / Yle

The possibility that the damage to two Nord Stream subsea gas pipelines was caused by a nation state cannot be ruled out, according to Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto (Green).

News outlets reported on Tuesday that three leaks had been detected in the Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 pipelines, at the bottom of the Baltic Sea, with newspaper Helsingin Sanomat describing the damage as "unparalleled."

Speaking to Yle on Wednesday, Haavisto said the damage to the LNG pipelines was exceptional and had no natural explanation.

Haavisto said he has understood that the undersea pipes were damaged in three places within Danish waters near the island of Bornholm, and in two places in Sweden's territorial waters.

"Such damage is exceptional and does not appear to have been caused by an earthquake or landslide, but by something else," Haavisto said.

While the minister did not directly address the possibility that Russia was responsible for the damage, he noted that the involvement of a state actor could not be ruled out at this time.

"A thorough investigation into what has happened is now in order. Both countries [Sweden and Denmark] have registered the explosions with their seismological institutes, and it is now necessary to investigate the causes," Haavisto said.

Impact of great concern

According to Haavisto, the events reminded him of the worst-case scenarios that were outlined when the Nord Stream gas pipelines were first planned, adding that the situation posed a wide range of risks to both the environment and shipping operations.

"Safety zones have had to be set up in the area, where ships cannot enter because of the risk of gas combustion. The impact on the climate will depend on how much gas is released from the pipeline. The impact on shipping and the atmosphere is of great concern," Haavisto said.

Although leaks from Nord Stream pipelines do not directly threaten Finland's supply security, they are important from a Baltic Sea security perspective, the minister noted, adding that similar events aiming to impact energy supply and security may reoccur in the future.

Damage appears intentional

On Tuesday evening, Sweden's Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said that damage to the Nord Stream pipelines in the Baltic Sea appeared to be intentional.

Meanwhile, the EU called the damage inflicted on the pipelines acts of "sabotage", but has not made specific accusations, according to Reuters.

The Finnish Foreign Ministry tweeted (siirryt toiseen palveluun) on Tuesday that it will be closely following and discussing the matter with Swedish and Danish authorities.

Press conference on Wednesday evening

Minister of Defence Antti Kaikkonen (Cen) said on Wednesday that while the events do not pose a military threat to Finland, the matter is still serious.

Kaikkonen added that at this stage the signs point to a deliberate act of sabotage.

"Pipes do not explode there by themselves," Kaikkonen said.

The Finnish government will hold a press conference on Wednesday evening following the conclusion of a specially-arranged a meeting of cabinet ministers.

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