Traces of explosives have been found at the sites of September’s multiple leaks from the Nord Stream gas pipelines, confirming that the breaches were the result of sabotage, Sweden’s prosecution authority has said.
“Analysis that has now been carried out shows traces of explosives on several of the objects that were recovered” from the scene in the Baltic Sea, Mats Ljungqvist, the prosecutor leading the investigation, said on Friday.
Ljungqvist said the investigation was “very complex and comprehensive” and analysis would continue in order to draw “more reliable conclusions” and determine whether any suspects could be identified. But the evidence so far was of “gross sabotage”, he said.
Swedish and Danish authorities are carrying out separate investigations into four ruptures in the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines, which carry gas between Russia and Germany via the Baltic, off the Danish island of Bornholm.
Two of the leaks occurred in Denmark’s exclusive economic zone and two in Sweden’s. A 50-metre section was missing from Nord Stream 1, the Swedish daily Expressen reported last month after publishing footage filmed by an underwater drone.
Seismologists in both countries recorded tremors in the area just before the leaks were reported that did not resemble those produced by earthquakes, and Denmark said last month that early indications pointed to “powerful explosions”.
Scientists said the 26 September ruptures, described by experts as equivalent to several hundred kilograms of TNT, could have caused one of the worst natural gas leaks ever, spewing gas including methane – the biggest cause of climate heating after carbon dioxide – into the ocean that then bubbled to the surface.
The pipelines have been at the centre of geopolitical tensions after Russia cut back its gas supplies to Europe, apparently in retaliation for sanctions imposed by the west in the wake of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
London last month dismissed allegations by Russia that the British navy was responsible for the blasts, saying the claims were designed to distract from Russian military failures in Ukraine. Washington and Moscow have denied any involvement.
Ljungqvist said cooperation between the Swedish, Danish and other national authorities was “working excellently” and that no further information would be provided, to allow investigators to continue their work “in peace and quiet”.
German authorities are carrying out their own investigation, in close cooperation with the Swedish and Danish teams, after Berlin’s offer of a formal joint investigation was rejected, reportedly over national security concerns.