Pevkur: Elering could monitor undersea cables for suspicious objects

The Estonian Navy's minehunter.
The Estonian Navy's minehunter. Source: Navy.

Transmission systems operator Elering should monitor undersea cables and their surroundings for suspicious objects, Minister of Defense Hanno Pevkur (Reform) said on Thursday after it was reported that Russia may target western infrastructure.

NATO officials believe Moscow is mapping critical infrastructure on land and in the Atlantic, Baltic, and North seas, Politico Europe reported this week.

Pevkur said the Navy inspected the Estonian-Finnish gas pipeline and undersea cables after the Nord Stream gas pipeline explosions last fall.

"Right now we can be sure that there is nothing unusual there," he said, but added it is now necessary to clarify how to move forward.

As Elering is responsible for the cables, the company must carry out checks, he said.

"If there's anything suspicious, of course, the Navy or somebody else who's competent in this area will react," he added.

Hanno Pevkur. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

The minister said there are several ways to check including regular monitoring or installing sensors, although this is the most expensive option. In a normal situation, cables and pipes should be inspected once a year, but now this could be done more regularly.

Discussions also need to be held with all the countries in the region as the Baltic Sea is a common resource.

"We have a lot of cables in the Baltic Sea. And I think in NATO we are also discussing how to approach critical infrastructure in the Baltic Sea as a whole," said Pevkur.

Elering: We have not officially been asked to do this

Elering board member Kalle Kilk said this is not a new issue for the company and ensuring the security of supply is important.

"But it is also important for us to do all this at a reasonable price," Kilk added. "Now, if the government thinks that we are not doing enough or could be doing more in terms of our infrastructure, we can of course discuss it."

Cross section of cabling of the type used in Estlink 2. Source: Elering

He said technical solutions exist to monitor infrastructure but a response plan is needed if a disturbance or something suspicious is registered.

"Because monitoring alone does not guarantee that infrastructure is secure," the board member said.

Kilk said all options come with additional costs.

Minister: There is no right to intervene in international waters

Minister of the Interior Lauri Läänemets (SDE) said connections between Estonia and Finland can be monitored from both sides of the Gulf of Finland. 

"Radars can see whether or not there are ships moving around. I know that the Finnish side uses many more methods, including underwater surveillance," he added.

Lauri Läänemets. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Läänemets said Estonia can take moves to prevent Russia from threatening underwater infrastructure.

One way could be to station vessels over the area so the Russian ships cannot pass too closely to the area, he suggested.

Pevkur said the state continuously monitors Russian vessels.

"If there's something that needs to be looked at in more detail, we'll send a patrol. This can be by plane, helicopter, or boat," the minister said.

He said Estonia is watching its territorial waters first and then its economic area: "and International waters we can mainly only monitor. We have no right to intervene there."


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Editor: Merili Nael, Helen Wright

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