President Vladimir Putin has categorically denied Russia’s involvement in the recent damage to an undersea gas pipeline connecting Finland and Estonia.
Investigative findings have revealed that the rupture in the Baltic-connector pipeline resulted from mechanical force, raising concerns about external interference.
Finnish officials, while not directly attributing the damage to Russia, have not ruled out the possibility of state involvement.
This incident has ignited suspicions of sabotage and potential retribution for Finland’s NATO membership earlier in the year and has garnered international attention.
The Baltic-connector pipeline, a vital component of Finland’s energy infrastructure, suffered significant damage, leading to its shutdown after a sudden pressure drop was detected.
The rupture in the 77-kilometer (48-mile) pipeline has been a cause of concern and investigation, but the exact cause remains disputed.
Finnish officials suggested that the nature of the damage points to “external” interference, sparking suspicions of sabotage.
This speculation is partially fueled by the timing of the incident, which occurred shortly after Finland acceded to NATO in April, and the disruption also affected a telecoms cable.
Putin Denies Involvement in Damaged Pipeline
President Putin vehemently denied any Russian involvement in the pipeline damage and dismissed accusations as “rubbish.”
He countered the claims, suggesting that the damage could have been caused by unrelated factors such as an anchor or even an earthquake. Notably, he also claimed ignorance of the pipeline’s existence.
The incident has raised alarm in the international community, with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg asserting that if the damage were to be proven deliberate, it would be met with a “united and determined response” from NATO allies.
NATO expressed strong solidarity with Estonia and Finland as they investigated the situation.
Estonia’s Defence Minister, Hanno Pevkur, voiced suspicions that the damage must have been caused “by something greater than a diver or an unmanned submersible.”
However, Jüri Saska, the commander of the Estonian Navy, refrained from speculating about the cause of the damage.
Finnish Prime Minister Petteri Orpo clarified that the damage could not have resulted from normal pipeline use or pressure fluctuations, adding that other potential causes, like seismic activity, had been ruled out. Fortunately, Finland maintains alternative sources of gas to ensure energy security.
The incident has reignited concerns about energy security, especially considering the events surrounding the Nord Stream pipeline last year.
The Baltic-connector pipeline, inaugurated in 2020, is a crucial channel for natural gas exchange between Estonia and Finland, providing flexibility in gas distribution depending on demand.
Since Russia halted natural gas imports to Finland in May of the previous year, the pipeline has been Finland’s sole direct link to the broader European Union gas network, accounting for approximately 5% of the country’s energy consumption.