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Latvian president: Close Baltic Sea if Russia behind Balticconnector damage

Latvian President Edgars Rinkevics on a visit to Estonia.
Latvian President Edgars Rinkevics on a visit to Estonia. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

If Russia is proven responsible for recent damage to the Balticconnector gas pipeline between Finland and Estonia, NATO should opt to close the Baltic Sea to ships, Latvian President Edgars Rinkevics said in an interview with LTV's "Today's Question" on Thursday.

Asked what NATO's response should be to recent damage to the Balticconnector gas pipeline and communication cable as well as another communication cable between Sweden and Estonia, Rinkevics said that the results of the investigation should be awaited first, Latvian public broadcaster LSM reported Friday morning.

He has spoken with Finnish President Sauli Niinistö and Estonian President Alar Karis, however, and it's "approximately clear what direction this is going in," he added.

The Latvian head of state noted that NATO allies have decided to step up patrols on the Baltic Sea.

"Although Sweden is not yet a member of NATO, we hope that in the near future, if we see incidents of this nature, NATO should, in my understanding, simply effectively close the Baltic Sea for shipping," he said. "You can do that. Ships can be stopped."

Rinkevics acknowledged that this is of course a question of a whole series of maritime rights, but said that if it's clearly proven to be Russia behind the damage, the discussion "has to be that to protect our critical infrastructure, there needs to be a conversation about how we can close the Baltic Sea."

Closing off the Baltic Sea is one solution he would "definitely put on the table" once the investigation into the matter has been completed and it comes time for Latvia to articulate a position once specific facts have been determined.

Gas pipeline, communications cables damaged

On Sunday, October 8, the 77-kilometer Balticconnector gas pipeline between Finland and Estonia experienced a sudden drop in pressure, which experts believe could only be attributed to a leak. Investigations also turned up damage to a data cable belonging to Finnish telecommunications company Elisa.

The two incidents are being investigated as sabotage, and although it has not yet been determined whether they are connected, evidence in a joint Finnish-Estonian investigation so far suggests that the damage sustained by the communications cable was manmade, the Office of the Prosecutor General said Thursday.

Earlier this week, Stockholm reported that a fault was discovered on a cable between Estonia and Sweden as well. According to Estonia's Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, preliminary information suggests that this is nonetheless connected to the other two cases.

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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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