Sabotage investigated as one possible Estonia-Sweden cable breakage cause

Submarine cable installation in progress in Väike Väin, between Muhu and Saaremaa (photo is illustrative).
Submarine cable installation in progress in Väike Väin, between Muhu and Saaremaa (photo is illustrative). Source: Elering

While sabotage is under investigation as one possible cause of the recent telecoms cable breakage off the coast of Hiiumaa, it remains just a theory at present, though the incident, due to its proximity in both time and space to the rupture in the Balticconnector pipeline and a telecoms cable, both running between Estonia and Finland, is being included as part of the same overall investigation.

The more recently reported damage occurred around 50km off the West coast of Hiiumaa and in Estonian territorial waters, to the EE-S1 cable, which runs a much longer distance, East-West between Sweden and Estonia.

EE-S1 is owned by Swedish telco Arelion.

Talking to ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera," (AK) Wednesday, Minister of Defense Hanno Pevkur (Reform) said: "These initial pieces of information were clear enough to have confirmed that these events are linked. We also cannot confirm that today either, but of course, there are suspicions, there is no denying that."

"If and when it becomes possible to out these three incidents together, or if there is a reason to do so, then of course this will be announced," he added.

While cast iron proof has not yet been found that there was intention, from any quarters, in the severing of the EE-S1 communication cable, rather than, for example, the culprit being the stormy weather conditions experienced at the time of the breakage, it is considered viable at least, hence the enlarging of the investigation from the Elisa-owned communications cable and of the Balticconnector gas pipeline (see map below) to incorporate the Estonia-Finland cable damage too.

Minister of the Economy and IT Tiit Riisalo (Eesti 200) told AK that: "Yes, there is indeed this suspicion, so we will ascertain whether it turns out to be correct or not."

Minister of the Interior Lauri Läänemets (SDE) said that one thing which is now known beyond all doubt is which ships were at sea in the affected areas at the time – noting that there is some overlap between the Balticconnector, Elisa and EE-S1 zones.

Another theory has it that the damage could have been unintentionally caused by a large vessel's dragging anchor in the heavy seas.

On the Estonian side, the Internal Security Service (ISS), known in Estonian by its acronym, Kapo, and the Central Criminal Police (Keskkriminaalpolitsei) is carrying out the investigation, under the tutelage of the Prosecutor's Office.

As reported by AK, this investigation can now be regarded as part of the same criminal investigation into the Elisa and Balticconnector links; if necessary, Estonian authorities say they will communicate on the matter with their Swedish counterparts.

Damage has been reported to the Balticconnector gas pipeline and to Arelion's EE-S1 and Elisa's undersea data cables. Source: ERR News/ Datawrapper/ TeleGeography

Since the EE-S1 breakage was only made public on Tuesday this week, nearly a week after it is thought to have occurred, this prompted speculation that it was intentionally being concealed from the public.

Ministers Riisalo, Läänemets and Pevkur all rejected this charge.

Riisalo told AK that "The rationale in informing the public is if a failure somehow affects that public in such a way that it interferes with service delivery," said Riisalo. 

"As this was not the case here, the decision was made to repair the cable and launch an investigation [prior to the incident being reported publicly]."

Pevkur counseled against over-speculation, in the interests of not hampering the ongoing investigation.

The Balticconnector pipeline is joint administered by Estonian grid systems operator Elering, and Gasgrid, its Finnish equivalent. The Balticconnector damage was found in Finnish waters.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Barbara Oja. Graphic by Helen Wright.

Source: 'Aktuaalne kaamera,' reporter Merilin Pärli.

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