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A satellite image taken Sept. 26, shows a gas leak on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline off the Danish island of Bornholm in the Baltic Sea.PLANET LABS PBC/Reuters

European Union leaders said the apparent attack on two key pipelines in the Baltic Sea shows the energy conflict between Russia and Europe has entered a potentially dangerous phase and vowed retaliation if evidence emerges the Kremlin was behind what they believe was an unprecedented act of sabotage.

The warning came as natural gas prices, which had been in decline from very high levels in the past month, jumped for the second day in a row, rising about 15 per cent.

The increases were driven by fears other pieces of European energy infrastructure could come under attack and a warning from Kremlin-controlled Gazprom, the world’s largest gas exporter, that gas flows through Ukraine are at risk over a legal dispute with Ukraine’s national gas company.

The Kremlin on Wednesday denied it was behind the twin explosions that crippled the Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 subsea pipelines that travel from Russia’s far west to northern Germany.

Dimitry Peskov, spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, said Europe’s claims of Russian sabotage were “quite predictably stupid and absurd,” according to the Russian news agency Interfax.

“The situation requires dialogue and timely co-operation from all sides, so that they can work out what happened as quickly as possible, assess the damage and plot out actions to fix the situation,” he added.

UN Security Council to meet Friday on damage to Nord Stream gas pipelines

Early on Wednesday, two days after the explosions rocked energy markets and alarmed European energy and defence ministers, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said there is no doubt the damage to the twin pipelines was no accident and vowed retaliation.

“These incidents are not a coincidence and affect us all,” he said. “All the available information indicates those leaks are the result of a deliberate act. … Any deliberate disruption of European energy infrastructure is utterly unacceptable and will be met with a robust and united response.”

He did not hint what the form the retaliation would take, but another round of economic and financial sanctions against Moscow will probably emerge on the list of options.

Fear of sabotage after pipeline leaks

Leaks in two Russian gas pipelines are raising concerns about

sabotage on infrastructure at the heart of the energy crisis

between Russia and Europe

Nord Stream 1

FINLAND

Vyborg

Nord Stream 2

Ust-Luga

NORWAY

ESTONIA

RUSSIA

SWEDEN

LATVIA

DENMARK

Baltic

Sea

LITHUANIA

North

Sea

RUS.

BELARUS

Greifswald

0

200

POLAND

GERMANY

KM

Gas leaks

SWEDEN

Bornholm

Island

(DENMARK)

Baltic

Sea

graphic news, Sources: Reuters; Gazprom; Danish

Maritime Authority; photo: danish defence

Fear of sabotage after pipeline leaks

Leaks in two Russian gas pipelines are raising concerns about

sabotage on infrastructure at the heart of the energy crisis

between Russia and Europe

Nord Stream 1

FINLAND

Vyborg

Nord Stream 2

Ust-Luga

NORWAY

ESTONIA

RUSSIA

SWEDEN

LATVIA

DENMARK

Baltic

Sea

LITHUANIA

North

Sea

RUS.

BELARUS

Greifswald

0

200

POLAND

GERMANY

KM

Gas leaks

SWEDEN

Bornholm

Island

(DENMARK)

Baltic

Sea

graphic news, Sources: Reuters; Gazprom; Danish

Maritime Authority; photo: danish defence

Fear of sabotage after pipeline leaks

Leaks in two Russian gas pipelines are raising concerns about sabotage on infrastructure

at the heart of the energy crisis between Russia and Europe

Nord Stream 1

FINLAND

Vyborg

Nord Stream 2

Ust-Luga

NORWAY

ESTONIA

RUSSIA

SWEDEN

LATVIA

DENMARK

Baltic

Sea

LITHUANIA

North

Sea

RUS.

BELARUS

Greifswald

0

200

POLAND

GERMANY

KM

Gas leaks

SWEDEN

Bornholm

Island

(DENMARK)

Baltic

Sea

graphic news, Sources: Reuters; Gazprom; Danish Maritime Authority; photo: danish defence

The foamy white gas plumes in the water from the damaged pipelines were still almost a kilometre in diameter on Wednesday. The gas is largely methane, one of the most powerful greenhouse gases.

The parallel pipelines, each about 1,200 kilometres in length, were full at the time of the explosions, but were not actually pumping gas to Germany. Supplies from the older Nord Stream 1 pipeline, which had been delivering most of Germany’s imported gas, were steadily ratcheted down by Gazprom over the course of the war and went to zero in late August.

The newer Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which was endorsed by then German chancellor Angela Merkel, was fully built but never went into operation. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz suspended its permitting process in February, just before Russia invaded Ukraine.

The damage to the pipelines means they will be incapable of delivering gas for many months, perhaps longer, even in the event a peace agreement in Ukraine were to allow them to operate. Swedish and Danish investigators, using teams of specialist divers, reportedly could take weeks to examine the subsea damage to determine what triggered the explosions.

A reading from a seismograph on the Danish island of Bornholm shows two spikes on the day of the pipeline explosions, followed by a lower-level 'hissing.'German Centre for Georesearch/Handout via REUTERS

The explosions were in fairly shallow international waters – less than 100 metres – just beyond territorial waters claimed by Sweden and Denmark. The pipelines were leaking from three spots.

The EU and member-state governments were trying to determine motivations behind the apparent attacks. Some believed it was designed to ramp up the economic war against the European countries that have condemned Russia’s invasion and are supplying lethal weapons, including highly accurate medium-range missiles, to the Ukrainian military.

“This has all the hallmarks of a ‘burning down the house’ energy warfare strategy,” said Helima Croft, head of commodities strategy at RBC Capital Markets. ”Russia was never going to let the West have an easy energy detox, but these acts of sabotage portend to a new dangerous, asymmetric phase in the Kremlin campaign to raise the economic stakes for its adversaries.”