EU countries step up security after apparent pipeline sabotage – The Irish Times

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said it would be “in no one’s interest” for acts of sabotage to cause leaks discovered in Nord Stream gas pipelines.

European countries are rushing to tighten security measures around critical infrastructure after denouncing a deliberate “sabotage” of two pipelines that provide a gas connection with Russia.

Three major leaks in the Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines have released huge gas bubbles into the Baltic Sea and caused gas prices to rise again in Europe, in a sudden escalation of the continent’s energy crisis.

European Council President Charles Michel said the damage was caused by “acts of sabotage” and described it as “an attempt to further destabilize the energy supply” of the European Union.

“Any deliberate disruption of Europe’s active energy infrastructure is unacceptable,” European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said, adding that it would “lead to the strongest response possible.”

Western leaders avoided attributing responsibility for the damage to the pipeline, which took place in the exclusive economic zones of Denmark and Sweden, saying further investigation was needed.

But Norway said it would step up security at its oil and gas facilities, while NATO and the EU both stressed the importance of ensuring the security of other infrastructure following the incident.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg “discussed critical infrastructure protection” during a discussion with Danish Defense Minister Morten Bødskov about pipeline “sabotage”, Stoltenberg wrote on Twitter.

EU chief diplomat Josep Borrell said the EU would act to increase its energy security.

“We will support any investigation aimed at achieving full clarity on what happened and why, and will take additional steps to increase our energy security resilience,” Borrell said in a statement.

The pipelines weren’t delivering gas at the time they were damaged, amid an energy tussle between the EU and Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, but the damage put the infrastructure on hold for good out of order.

Shortly after, Russian energy giant Gazprom warned it could cut off its remaining gas deliveries to Europe that transit through Ukraine due to a legal dispute.

The leaks coincided with the launch of the Baltic Pipe which will link Poland to Norway via Denmark, which was celebrated at its inauguration by the leaders of the three countries as a means of reducing energy dependence on the Russia.

The Norwegian Petroleum Safety Authority had on Monday, a day before the leaks, urged operators to increase their “vigilance” after being informed of “unidentified drones/planes” flying near offshore oil and gas platforms.

He warned of the risk of “collision with the installation” or “deliberate attacks”, and said later that the cases in which drones had breached the security zone around the installations “currently make the under investigation by the Norwegian police”.

Billy Kelleher, MEP for Fianna Fáil, warned that Irish infrastructure was potentially vulnerable. “Russian Navy was carrying out maneuvers off Ireland in January 2022,” he wrote on Twitter.

“At the time, many people said they were there to map the communication cables under the sea, between the EU and the United States. The attack on gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea today leads me to believe that Russia would sabotage these cables.

In a daily conference call with reporters, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed any speculation that Russia might have attacked the pipelines.

“It’s utterly predictable and also predictably stupid,” he said. “Now the gas is flying through the air…Are we interested? No, we are not, we have lost a gas supply route to Europe.

The timeline for pipeline repairs was unclear, Peskov said.

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