Who was hindered by the Balticconnector?


Mikko Stig / Imago

On the morning of October 24, Finnish police lifted from the bottom of the Baltic Sea a 6-ton anchor with a broken part, which allegedly damaged the Balticconnector gas pipeline between Finland and Estonia. A 1.5 to 4 meter wide drag mark was found leading to the site of the damage. There are marks on the anchor itself indicating that it had come into contact with the pipeline.

Finnish law enforcement authorities are continuing their investigation into the damage to the Balticconnector underwater offshore pipeline. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has already joined the investigation. The Foreign Ministry said it had contacted Russia and China through diplomatic channels. Moscow has been informed about the beginning of «serious proceedings». And Beijing was asked to assist in gaining access to the container ship registered in Hong Kong of the Chinese shipping company NewNew Polar Bear. The investigation is looking into its possible involvement in the incident.

Earlier, the emergency reached the NATO level. In Brussels, defense ministers of the alliance were promptly concerned about it at their meeting on October 11.

«If it is proven that this was a deliberate attack on NATO’s critical infrastructure, it is a serious problem. The alliance’s response will be unified and decisive», NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg warned.

The snowball started rolling. It came to the point that Latvian President Edgars Rinkevics said on October 20 that it is unlikely that any country other than Russia could be guilty of undermining (!?) the Balticconnector, and threatened that the Baltic Sea could be completely closed for Russian ships if such a version is confirmed.

It is noteworthy that he had no grounds for such a statement: Finland is in no hurry to share the results of the preliminary investigation.

Meanwhile, it is the «Russian trace» that is most actively discussed in the European media. The Russian authorities, they say, «had a whole set of reasons to do this». A wide variety of arguments are given. Here are some of them. Russia is showing that it can get to NATO’s critical infrastructure and demonstrate to Helsinki that joining the alliance has not made the country safer. Or another: Moscow allegedly seeks to divert attention from events in Ukraine and create gas shortages in Finland and Estonia ahead of winter.

In response, Russian President Vladimir Putin also spoke out about Balticconnector on October 13. He noted that the accusations against Russia were an attempt by the West to shift attention from the terrorist attack on the Nord Streams.

Let me remind you that the Balticconnector was damaged on October 8 in Finnish territorial waters. At the same time (but two hours later in Estonian waters), an underwater telecommunications cable between Estonia and Sweden, which ran parallel to the gas pipeline branch, was broken.

The incident with Balticconnector was officially announced on October 10, and the damage to the cable belonging to the Estonian company Elisa was announced on October 17.

According to the estimation of the operating companies (Finnish Gasgrid Finland and Estonian Elering), the repair will take at least five months, and gas can be supplied through the pipeline no earlier than April 2024.

The Balticconnector with a capacity of 7.2 million cubic meters per day (for comparison: the capacity of the exploded Nord Stream is 167 million cubic meters per day) connects the gas transportation systems of the two countries. The total length of the string is 150 kilometers (77 kilometers — on the bottom of the Gulf of Finland, 21 kilometers — on Finnish territory and 52 kilometers — on Estonian territory). It was launched in 2020 at a cost of €250 million.

It is noteworthy that the pipeline’s decommissioning is not critical for these countries. Finland, after Gazprom stopped pipeline supplies in May 2022, focused on LNG purchases. Estonia is supplied through the Latvian gas transportation system and has access to LNG receiving terminals in Latvia and Lithuania, as well as to the Incukalns underground gas storage facility in Latvia. So neither Finns nor Estonians will certainly not freeze in winter, as the Western media scare….

Commander of the Estonian Navy Juri Saska partially shed some light on what really could have happened at the bottom of the Baltic Sea. According to him, the pipe, located at a depth of 60 meters, was protected by a concrete casing. Judging by photos and video from the scene, it was damaged by something on one side. As a result, the structure was broken and shifted. According to the working version, the anchor of the large vessel may well have dragged the casing behind it, which caused the pipe in it to be damaged. At the time of the incident there was a strong storm in the Baltic. And the very same Chinese container ship was sailing (or drifting?) nearby.

If this version is confirmed, then why did NATO make a big deal out of it, once again exercising in the search for the notorious «Russian trace»?

Doctor of Military Sciences Konstantin Sivkov expressed his very plausible opinion on this matter in an interview recently published on our website.

«With a high degree of probability I assume that, motivated by the threat of further damage on this gas pipeline, they can introduce a security zone around it and prevent the movement of Russian civilian ships that connect continental Russia with the Kaliningrad region. In this case, Russia would have to face the challenge of ensuring maritime communication, as there is no other communication with sufficient capacity to connect the Kaliningrad region with mainland Russia. This may lead to a clash with NATO», he said.

Actually, the same president of Latvia (and others like him!), who threatens to close the Baltic Sea for Russia in violation of international law, is dreaming about this very thing. If only there were a reason. And it is possible to invent one.