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Who Attacked the Nord Stream Pipelines - Expert Assess

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Photo for illustration
Photo for illustration

The former officer in the Ukrainian Navy captain (ret.) Andrii Ryzhenko assessed russian abilities to attacke the Nord Stream Pipelines

In his article for The Jamestown Foundation, he emphasized, that Russia actually possess the capabilities to carry out an operation to attack the underwater pipelines. "The Kremlin has been preparing for such activities for at least the past 50 years. Any potential Russian intelligence or sabotage operations within the Baltic region enjoys expansive plausible deniability provided by the regular repair and maintenance activities for the Nord Stream pipelines. For an action of this nature, Russian naval special forces from the Baltic Fleet (561st detachment) and hydronauts from the Russian Main Directorate of Deep-Sea Research (or “GUGI”) would be involved" - wrote Andrii Ryzhenko.

According to his analise During the final stage of work on Nord Stream Two - from April 10 to August 30, 2021 - Russian naval servicemen were reported in the area. The joint special-purpose group was spotted aboard civilian vessels belonging to the Russian Maritime Rescue Services.

Read more: NATO is Preparing For a 'Decisive Response' Calling Nord Stream Leaks 'Deliberate Acts of Sabotage'

The members of the joint group were identified as belonging to various special units of the Russian Navy:

- Four from the GUGI, military unit No. 45707 (based in Peterhof);

- Seven from the 313th Special-Purpose Detachment for Combating Underwater Sabotage of the Baltic Fleet (based in the city of Baltiysk);

- Seven from the 342nd Emergency Rescue Detachment of the Baltic Fleet.

Overall, the GUGI is one of the most classified Russian military units and mainly plans and carries out special underwater operations. GUGI hydronauts are engaged in reconnaissance activities: they listen to communication cables, install various equipment and collect wreckages of ships, planes and satellites -both Russian and foreign - to obtain information about the possible level of technological development among adversaries (e.g., North Atlantic Treaty Organization members). The GUGI is also engaged in the planning and preliminary preparation of large-scale sabotage on the transatlantic fiber-optic communication lines between Europe and North America.

In 2021, a suspicious underwater operation took place in the exclusive maritime economic zones of Denmark and Germany, near the fiber-optic communication lines Baltica (connecting Poland, Sweden and Denmark) and Denmark-Poland 2 (connecting Poland with the island of Bornholm) - within two to three miles of Nord Stream Two. At the time, the newest Russian rescue tug, Bakhtemir, along with a group of divers, mobile rapid deployment diving station and remote-controlled submersible MSS-3000 conducted, over several weeks, numerous underwater activities in the area. Importantly, the Bakhtemir is equipped with manipulators, cable cutters and knives - precisely what would be needed to carry out sabotage operations on the seabed of the shallow Baltic. Ultimately, the actual result of this particular operation is unknown, but consequences of a similar operation now may be quite different, given the current geopolitical circumstances. In particular, Norwegian infrastructure has been the target of similar operations.

In April 2021, bottom sensors of the Lofoten-Vesteralen Ocean Observatory (LoVe), located on the Norwegian Continental Shelf, were deactivated. Besides collecting scientific data, the system was also used to collect data about passing submarines and other underwater objects. Reports indicated that more than 2.5 miles of fiber-optic and electrical cables were severed and then removed. Since then, the missing cables, weighing around 9.5 tons in total, have disappeared. Another similar case took place on January 7. An undersea fiber-optic cable located between mainland Norway and the Svalbard archipelago in the Arctic Ocean was knocked offline.

Sweden and Denmark say Nord Stream pipeline blasts were deliberate attacks
Sweden and Denmark say Nord Stream pipeline blasts were deliberate attacks

The military value of the cable, and moreover that of the Svalbard Satellite Station (SvalSat), point to possible motivations for an espionage or sabotage mission. Although Svalbard itself is a designated demilitarized zone, persistent suggestions - including from Russia - have pushed for SvalSat facilities to be used to download data from military and commercial satellites. Beyond that, the cables lie along a vital passageway for Russian naval vessels, including surface ships and submarines, which use it to proceed from their bases into the Atlantic. Thus, the location of this incident - in the increasingly strategic Arctic region - adds to the suspicion that Russian operatives may have played a role. These considerations give logic to the plausibility of the involvement of GUGI and other Russian underwater special combat assets in the two mysterious happenings off the coast of Norway, as well as with the Nord Stream explosions.

As Defense Express reported On Monday, September 26, European media reported a significant loss of pressure in the Nord Stream Two pipeline. Shortly thereafter, Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson reported that a number of explosions had been recorded. Seismologists in Denmark and Sweden confirmed that they had registered the powerful explosions. As the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland reported, “The signals are not similar to the signals of earthquakes. They resemble instead the signals usually registered by explosions”

On Wednesday, September 28, gas from the damaged pipes burst out from the 80-meter-deep pipeline, spreading to a diameter of one kilometer in the Baltic Sea. As Danish Defense Minister Morten Bodskov explained, “The explosion was very powerful, so it will take some time before we can go down there to inspect the place.” He added, “This is not a coincidence. Everything was planned, carefully planned.”

On September 29, the Swedish Coast Guard discovered a fourth leak. Altogether, two leaks were discovered in Sweden’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), while the other two happened in Denmark’s EEZ. In response, British defense sources mused, “The acts of sabotage against gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea are believed to have been deliberate attacks using remotely detonated underwater explosive devices.”

Read more: Ukrainians Get Mobilized into russian Sabotage Groups