Whoever sabotaged the Nord Stream pipelines likely had access to fast-moving underwater drones, one of Denmark’s most “experienced navy divers” told Bloomberg on Thursday. NATO forces trained with these unmanned underwater vehicles near the blast site prior to the explosions.
The diver said that “finding the pipelines without precise coordinates or tracking technology, then transporting and placing the explosives, would have challenged diver-saboteur,” in the newspaper’s words.
“The diver estimates the operation, including a safe ascent, would have taken an individual diver several hours. He surmises that whoever carried out the attack had access to a fast-moving autonomous submersible vehicle, like the ones employed by sophisticated naval forces,” the report continued, adding that “a surface vessel remaining relatively static for hours would have attracted unwanted attention.”
The Danish navy described the diver’s hypothesis as sound, while the country’s intelligence agency, defense ministry, and foreign affairs ministry offered no comment.
The Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines, which were built to deliver Russian natural gas directly to Germany, lost pressure abruptly on September 26, following a series of underwater explosions off the Danish island of Bornholm, within the economic zones of Denmark and Sweden. Denmark is one of five countries independently investigating the incidents but has not shared any conclusions.
The diver’s hypothesis seems to disprove the theory – promulgated by U.S. and German spies in the New York Times and Washington Post – that a “pro-Ukrainian group” used a rented yacht to ferry explosives to the blast site. The intelligence officials quoted by both newspapers made no mention of the supposed group having at their disposal underwater drones.
NATO militaries do, however, have access to these unmanned subs. During last June’s BALTOPS exercises, the U.S. navy’s Sixth Fleet trained with underwater mine-hunting” drones for ten days off the coast of Bornholm, according to a NATO statement. The Ukrainian government has also received six of these drones from the UK, and although the Sixth Fleet trained Kiev’s forces in operating them, no evidence has emerged placing Ukrainian operators near Bornholm last summer.
According to a report by American journalist Seymour Hersh, US navy divers used the BALTOPS drills as cover to plant the explosives, aided by their Norwegian counterparts. Citing a source with “direct knowledge of the operational planning,” Hersh said that the sabotage mission was planned by the CIA under the direct orders of President Joe Biden.
Multiple US officials have denied Hersh’s version of events, and a former CIA operative told Bloomberg that, in his opinion, someone involved in the planning would have stepped in and said “this is the dumbest thing I have ever heard.” However, Hersh wrote that this exact scenario happened – with State Department and CIA officials deeming the plan “stupid” – but the skeptics were overruled and the pipelines destroyed with explosives triggered remotely three months after they were planted.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said last month that he “fully agrees” with Hersh’s conclusions, blaming the sabotage on “U.S. intelligence.” The Kremlin has dismissed the “pro-Ukrainian group” theory, calling it “a coordinated media hoax campaign.”
Denmark Lifts Maritime Bans Associated With Nord Stream Pipeline Disturbance
A report by UPI said:
A ban on sailing in the Baltic Sea region near last year’s leaks from the Nord Stream natural gas pipeline network is now lifted, the Danish Maritime Authority said Thursday.
The authority said Thursday it removed the no-navigation zones near the position of the leaks. Sweden’s National Seismology Center confirmed an underwater blast in the area of the pipes at the time they lost pressure in September.
The pipelines — Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 — had not been active but were still filled with natural gas when authorities noticed the drop in pressure.
The pipeline company, Nord Stream AG, counts Russian energy company Gazprom as among its consortium partners.
Danish authorities later verified through video footage that the leak created a sea disturbance of around 0.62 miles in diameter. The system was leaking methane, a potent greenhouse gas that has far more warming potential than carbon dioxide.
Danish officials on Thursday warned there still were restrictions on anchoring, fishing and working on the seafloor within 1 nautical mile of the point of the leaks due in part to “underwater obstacles.”
“The restriction areas will no longer appear in the Danish Maritime Authority’s navigation warnings but will be announced in Notices for Seafarers,” the agency said.
Mats Ljungqvist, the Swedish prosecutor in charge of the investigation, said earlier this month, that it is unlikely officials will be able to identify who was behind the attack.
“We are working unconditionally and turning over every stone and leaving nothing to chance,” he said. “Our hope is to be able to confirm who has committed this crime, but it should be noted that it likely will be difficult given the circumstances.”