Chinese & Russian Ships Found In Vicinity Of Damaged Gas Pipeline, Telecoms Cable Raise Security Concerns

Per vessel tracking data, a Chinese container ship and a Russian-flagged ship probed over damage to a gas pipeline in the Gulf of Finland were present at the site at the same time when the telecom cables got damaged.

Image for representation purposes only.

On Oct. 8, a gas pipeline and a telecom cable linking Finland with Estonia were damaged. Investigators from Finland called it a deliberate attempt. Sweden said on Tuesday that a third link which connected Stockholm to Tallinn was broken at the same time as the pipeline and cable.

These incidents have raised concerns about the security of energy supply in the Nordic region and have encouraged NATO to increase patrols in the Baltic Sea and Helsinki and contact Russia and China diplomatically regarding these incidents.

Russia and China have been contacted since the only two ships present at the three sites around the time when the damages happened were a Chinese container ship called the NewNew Polar Bear and Sevmorput, a Russian nuclear-powered cargo ship, per the MarineTraffic, a real-time ship tracking website.

The NewNew Polar Bear was travelling between China and Europe through the Northern Sea Route in the Arctic, and the Sevmorput was sailing between Murmansk and St.Petersburg.

Both ships are being investigated, and per vessel tracking data, the locations of the ships match the movements of military and service vessels deployed to look into these incidents.

The authorities from Estonia and Finland have established a restricted navigation zone around where the incidents occurred.

In the Swedish-Estonian telecoms cable incident, the NewNew Polar Bear passed over the cable at 1813 EET (1513 GMT) on Oct. 7. Sevmorput passed over it at 2008 EET, 4 km to the west of the site of the accident. Arelion, the cable operator, reported that it was damaged in the afternoon of Oct. 7.

In the Finland-Estonia gas pipeline accident, the NewNew Polar Bear passed over the pipeline at 0120 EET on Oct. 8 (2220 GMT on Oct. 7), and the Sevmorput passed over it 8 minutes earlier, at 0112 EET.

The time when the NewNew Polar Bear passed the pipeline was the same when seismologists from Norway registered a seismic event near the pipeline. Gasgrid and Elering, the pipeline operators, said the gas leak happened between 0100 and 0200 EET on Oct. 8 (2200-2300 GMT, Oct. 7).

The third incident involving the Finland-Estonia telecoms link, the NewNew Polar Bear passed it at 0249 EET on Oct. 8 (2349 GMT, Oct. 7), and the Sevmorput crossed it at 0226 EET the same day (2326 GMT, Oct. 7).

The Russian authority responsible for nuclear-powered ships, Atomflot, denied the involvement of any of its ships in these accidents. President Putin said the idea that Moscow damaged the Finnish-Estonia gas pipeline is ‘rubbish’.

References: The Print, Reuters

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