Finnish media: Balticconnector pipeline leak 'does not appear to be an accident'

Balticconnector gas pipeline.
Balticconnector gas pipeline.

Finnish media on Tuesday reported sources as saying the government and the Finnish Defense Forces suspect Russia attacked the Balticconnector gas pipeline, between Finland and Estonia, after a leak was detected.

Finnish national broadcaster Yle said a government press conference will be held at 5:30 p.m. this evening. The Estonian Ministry of Defense said it will hold a press conference at 6:30 p.m., with Minister of Defense Hanno Pevkur and Minister of Foreign Affairs Margus Tsahkna set to attend.

According to a Finnish government press release, the authorities have located the damaged point in the Balticconnector natural gas pipeline.

In addition, there is damage to a communication cable between the countries.

On Tuesday afternoon, Finnish President Sauli Niinistö said: "It is likely that the damage to both the gas pipeline and the data cable is caused by external activity. What specifically caused the damage is not yet known."

Finnish PM Petteri Orpo told the country's parliament that the gas pipeline is damaged in Finland's economic waters, while a related communications cable disruption likely took place in Estonia's exclusive economic zone. Orpo added that based on what the authorities know, the leak was not a result of normal use or a change in pressure.

Earlier on Tuesday, Yle's source said the leak "does not appear to be an accident" and the press conference is believed to be related to "a worrying change in Finland's security situation".

The tabloid newspaper Iltalehti cites a foreign and security policy source as saying that the government and the Finnish Defense Forces suspect Russia of attacking the pipeline.

Investigations are ongoing.

Timeline: What do we know so far?

The Balticconnector pipeline between Estonia and Finland. Source: ENTSOG

The undersea portion of Balticconnector runs for 77 kilometers between Paldiski in Estonia and Inkoo in Finland. The pipeline was launched in early 2020 and construction cost nearly €300 million.

Shortly before 2 a.m. on Sunday (October 8) a sudden loss of pressure was detected by Gasgrid Finland and Estonian gas network operator Elering, who manage the pipeline.

The two countries' transmission system operators shut off the gas in the pipeline.

On Monday (October 9), Gasgrid Finland said the only possible reason for the unusual pressure drop in the Balticconnector pipeline is a hole in the pipe, which has only been in use for a few years.

Ain Köster, the director of communications for Elering, told ERR on Monday that there were no details about what went wrong and where.

"There appears to be a gas leak; I don't know right now where it is. We know it's in the sea, but we have no idea where it is or what caused it," he said.

Elering reassured its customers that Estonia will also be able to receive gas from storage in Latvia and via Lithuania's LNG terminal.

Investigations into the leak started on Monday.

On Tuesday (October 10), Heidi Soosalu, a seismologist at the Estonian Geological Service, said that neither Estonian nor Finnish seismic stations had registered anything resembling explosions over the weekend.

"Seismic data does not confirm an explosion, or if there was one, it was below the detection threshold. It is doubtful that an explosion that small could have damaged much of anything. But there is no seismic record of any such activity," she told ERR.

On Tuesday afternoon, both the Finnish and Estonian governments said they would hold separate press conferences about the situation.

President Finnish President Sauli Niinistö said it is likely that the damage to both Balticconnector and a communication cable is the result of outside activity.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday said the alliance stands with Estonia and Finland over concerns about damage to the undersea pipeline Balticconnector.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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