Russia has said the British Navy carried out an attack on its Nord Stream gas pipeline last month. Moscow called the attack a terror act and sabotage, while the UK sprang quickly to deny the Russian claim. Moscow had blamed the West earlier as well for the attack on the key pipeline but it is the first time that it is blaming London specifically.
"According to available information, representatives of this unit of the British Navy took part in the planning, provision and implementation of a terrorist attack in the Baltic Sea on September 26 this year - blowing up the Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 gas pipelines," Russia's defense ministry said, referring to a unit of 'British specialists'.
According to the Russian defense ministry, this team of Navy specialists was behind an attack on Saturday against the Russian Black Sea fleet in Crimea. The UK specialists directed Ukrainian drone attacks on the fleet, which was repelled by Russian forces, tough Russian minesweeper suffered minor damage, the ministry said, according to Reuters.
The Attack and Various Theories
A pair of explosions in late September had produced leaks in all three of the underwater Nord Stream pipelines that connect Russia and Germany, causing massive plumes of gas bubbles to break the surface of the Baltic Sea.
Seismologists had said powerful explosions preceded the leaks. Denmark said it believed "deliberate actions" caused big leaks in the Stream pipelines running under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg also said blast was an act of sabotage.
The Swedish National Seismic Network (SNSN) registered two distinct blasts in the vicinity of Bornholm. Automatic monitoring picked up the first blast, which registered the equivalent of an earthquake magnitude of 1.8.
Simone Tagliapietra, an energy expert with the Bruegel think tank in Brussels, speculated that the leaks could have been caused by Russian sabotage or anti-Russian sabotage.
According to a former Polish Defense Minister, Radek Sikorski, the United States could have been behind the sabotage of the Nord Stream pipeline. Russia too says the US has a motive as it looks at selling more natural gas to Europe.
Earlier in September, Russia indefinitely stopped natural gas supplies to Europe through the Gazprom pipeline, worsening the energy crisis looming over Europe ahead of the winter.
The 1,200km pipeline stretches under the Baltic Sea, connecting the Russian coast near St Petersburg to north-eastern Germany. Russia completely stopped gas flows through the pipeline three days before this announcement.
UK Denies Charge
Britain said it had no role in the attack on the Nord Stream pipeline. "To detract from their disastrous handling of the illegal invasion of Ukraine, the Russian Ministry of Defence is resorting to peddling false claims of an epic scale ... This invented story, says more about arguments going on inside the Russian government than it does about the West," UK said, according to Channel News Asia.
Also on Saturday Russia said that Ukraine attacked its Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol. "Nine unmanned aerial vehicles and seven autonomous marine drones were involved in the attack ... The preparation of this terrorist act and the training of servicemen of the Ukrainian 73rd Special Center for Naval Operations were carried out under the guidance of British specialists located in the town of Ochakiv," the defense ministry said.