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Reform MP: If Russia behind Balticconnector leak, likely testing our preparedness

Marko Mihkelson (Reform).
Marko Mihkelson (Reform). Source: Erik Peinar/Riigikogu

If it transpires that Russia is really behind the rupture of the Balticconnector gas pipeline, a submarine connection linking Finland and Estonia, this was likely done to test Estonia's preparedness, Reform Party MP and Riigikogu Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Marko Mihkelson said.

The same can be said for the damage done to the Elisa communications cable, Mihkelson added.

Both incidents took place overnight Saturday to Sunday.

Appearing on ETV politics head-to-head show "Esimene stuudio" Tuesday, Mihkelson said that if the damage was intentionally inflicted, the only party to have the motivation to do so is Russia; Mihkelson also expressed hope that the ensuing investigation will bring clearer answers than that into last year's Nord Stream 2 rupture did.

He said: "This is not the first time in the Baltic Sea region where critical infrastructure objects have been attacked in one way or another, or damage has been caused. /.../ Over the past couple of years, we have seen serious attacks or acts of sabotage against submarine cables or pipeline. We still cannot state who was behind Nord Stream 2 to this day. Those who have looked into it have yet to attribute culpability."

"I hope that this [Balticconnector] investigation will lead to clearer results than the Nord Stream 2 sabotage investigation has," he added.

Mihkelson also recalled the case of a data communication cable breach in Northern Norway, which Russia was quite directly blamed for.

"This night, as the investigation is underway, one should not rush ahead of events and say that it was unequivocally carried out by, for example, Russia. It can certainly be in Russia's interest that we may theoretically have difficulties in ensuring the security of energy supply [however]," he went on.

"The event is severe, and alarming, and we can state that if it should be the case [that it is Russia behind it], then this would have been to test our reactions, readiness, actions, procedures, and also to gauge how secure supply is," Mihkelson added.

Both Elering, which is responsible for the security of supply, and the major gas suppliers Eesti Gaas and Alexela told ERR on Monday that there will be no issues with the gas supply in any case, as stocks in the Latvian underground storage facility at Inčukalns, and the supplies of LNG arriving via the Klaipeda, Lithuania terminal, guarantee the availability of gas, both for the upcoming winter and in fact over a longer period.

According to Mihkelson, how to better protect critical underwater infrastructure, such as gas pipelines, electrical connections and communication cables, has been talked about already, but there is currently no strong solution or encouraging experience to have emerged from elsewhere.

"This is because it's very expensive to monitor and protect. Second, we don't have any best practices or experience. But the lesson we've learned with Balticconnector only highlights just how important that in fact is," he went on.

In addition to natural gas supply, data comms with the rest of the world is not at risk either, as Estonia has a total of nine cables, two of which run underwater. "Our data services have not been compromised," he noted.

You can read a summary of the Balticonnector events, from Sunday to the present, here.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Marko Tooming

Source: "Esimene stuudio", interviewer Andres Kuusk

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