Ministers: Balticconnector pipeline damage was deliberate

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Minister of Foreign Affairs Margus Tsahkna, Minister of Defence Hanno Pevkur and Minister of Climate Kristen Michal at a press conference on October 10, 2023.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Margus Tsahkna, Minister of Defence Hanno Pevkur and Minister of Climate Kristen Michal at a press conference on October 10, 2023. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Pictures show the damage to the gas pipeline Balticconnector was carried out deliberately by people, said Defense Minister Hanno Pevkur (Reform) on Tuesday. Investigations are still ongoing.

"The picture we have from the pipeline tells us that the damage had to have been done by something greater than a diver or unmanned submersible. The damage is more extensive," said Pevkur.

He also ruled out the possibility of an explosion, as seismologists did this morning.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Margus Tsahkna (Eesti 200) confirmed the damage is mechanical and therefore caused by humans.

He said this situation once again raises the issue of guarding and protecting critical infrastructure. This must now be discussed with NATO and the European Union, the minister added.

Tsahkna said Estonia's NATO Allies have been informed about the incident.

As well as the pipeline, a cable belonging to Estonian telecommunications company Elisa was also damaged overnight between Saturday (October 7) and Sunday (October 8).

The Balticconnector pipeline between Estonia and Finland. Source: ENTSOG

The damage is likely to be in Estonia's economic waters, but the navy has not yet found the exact location, Pevkur said.

"In all likelihood, we have identified the site, but we need confirmation because it is very deep at the bottom of the sea," he said, adding that the depth is approximately 70 meters. 

In comparison, the Balticonnector pipeline is located at a depth of 60 meters and in Finnish waters.

Tsahkna said it is known which ships, at least those with their transponders turned on, were in the area at the time. But the damage cannot be attributed to any ship, he said.

Pevkur said the issue will definitely be discussed at the meeting of NATO defense ministers on Wednesday, but currently, neither Finland nor Estonia are requesting additional help from Allies.

It is also not yet confirmed if the damaged pipeline and cable are connected.

"It is not possible to say today whether these two incidents are related; geographically they are located in completely different places; it is necessary to clarify what is behind both events," said Pevkur.

Minister of Climate Kristen Michal (Reform) said the timeframe for the pipeline's repair is not yet known.

Pevkur said he and Michal have discussed how to better monitor critical infrastructure. Installing permanent sensors is deemed to be too expensive.

"This must result from the responsibility of the pipeline operator [Elering], which means no extra burden for taxpayers," he said.  

Finnish PM: We should not jump to conclusions

At a Finnish government press conference also on Tuesday, Finnish Prime Minister Petteri Orpo said the damage to the pipeline and cable was likely to be deliberate.

But did not comment about who or what may have caused the damage, saying it was too early to speculate, national broadcaster Yle reported.

Orpo said he has discussed the situation with Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform).

Detective Chief Superintendent Timo Kilpeläinen, head of the National Bureau of Investigation's Investigation Department, said he did not want to compare this week's incident with the damage caused to the Nord Stream pipelines last year, but noted that the damage to the Balticconnector was so significant that a decision was made to open a preliminary probe of aggravated sabotage.

Kallas: We will ask for additional security measures if needed

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) said on Tuesday evening that she had spoken with President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen and President of the European Council Charles Michel.

"I explained the situation regarding BalticConnector gas pipeline and an undersea communication cable between Estonia and Finland," she wrote on social media platform X.

"We will discuss with partners and Allies additional security measures for the Baltic Sea if needed."

Michel said: "The EU is determined to secure and reinforce the protection of its critical infrastructure. A thorough investigation is needed."

Kallas also confirmed she had spoken with Orpo and said the countries are cooperating closely.

Norwegian seismologists detected a "probable explosion"

On Tuesday evening, the Norwegian seismological center NORSAR said it had detected "a probable explosion" on Sunday morning close to the pipeline.

It was detected at 1.20 a.m., approximately 40 km north of Paldiski, Estonia, the agency said.

"The local magnitude of the event has been estimated at 1.0, which is much lower than the Nord Stream explosion detected in September 2022. Both location and magnitude estimates are associated with large uncertainties. Further analysis of the data is ongoing," it said.

"Both location and magnitude estimates are associated with large uncertainties. Further analysis of the data is ongoing," it added.

A leak in Balticconnector, which runs between Estonia and Finland, was detected early on Sunday morning. The gas pipeline was then closed. Finnish media sources pinned the blame on Russia on Tuesday.

The 77-kilometer underwater pipeline connects Paldiski, Estonia and Inkoo, Finland. It was launched in 2020 and construction cost over €300 million.

Read a summary of the events so far here.

This article was updated to add quotes from Prime Minister Kaja Kallas and from NORSAR.


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Editor: Marko Tooming, Helen Wright, Marcus Turovski

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