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Denmark says explosions ripped holes in Nord Stream pipelines

An investigation by Danish police found that gas leaks from Nord Stream 1 and 2 last month were caused by “powerful explosions,” as new images show a large crack in one pipeline and craters on the seabed.

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (CN) — Leaders from countries surrounding the Baltic Sea already speculated sabotage when major gas leaks from the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines under the sea made headlines worldwide in late September.

An investigation was immediately launched by the Danish authorities, who had to wait days for the two mega pipes to release their stored gas before inspecting further.

It is now confirmed that the damage to both natural gas pipelines was caused by “powerful explosions,” Copenhagen's police department said in a press release on Tuesday.

"The investigations have confirmed that there has been extensive damage to Nord Stream 1 and 2 in Denmark's exclusive economic zone, and that the damage was caused by powerful explosions," the department said.

Just over a week ago, Sweden’s Prosecution Authority reached the same conclusion after conducting its investigation.

“We can confirm that there have been detonations at Nord Stream 1 and 2 in the Swedish economic zone, which have caused extensive damage to the gas pipelines. The crime scene investigation has strengthened the suspicions of serious sabotage,” said Mats Ljungqvist, the Swedish chamber prosecutor who led the preliminary investigation, in a press release.

While there is consensus that the explosions were an act of sabotage, it is unclear who was behind them.

Nord Stream 1 and 2 were meant to supply Germany and the European Union with Russian gas. But Nord Stream 2 never entered into service after being completed last year, and the first pipeline was shut down amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Dependence on Russian gas and the severing of reliance on it are largely behind the energy crises the EU is going through.

If the pair of pipelines are ever to be put back to work again, extensive repairs are most likely needed.

On Tuesday, the Swedish daily newspaper Expressen released images of the damage Nord Stream 1 had taken underwater.

One image shows that the pipe has a crack so large that it almost cuts through it. Looking at the bottom of the ocean, which is around 80 meters (0.05 miles) below the sea surface, craters are present on the sea floor. A grave in the seabed where the gas pipeline used to lie is now exposed.

Jens Wenzel, a military analyzer at University of Copenhagen, told Danish broadcaster TV2 that the pictures indicate the explosion was “fierce."

“This is nothing you do with simple New Year's fireworks. It has been a fierce explosion, nothing else could have deformed it to that extent, as it has happened down there,” Wenzel said.

Markings on the seabed also illustrate the sheer force of the explosion.

“If it is the same pipeline that has been buried in the seabed, then it looks like it was lifted because of the explosion, and has deformed it with big force,” Wenzel said.

The investigation will continue, with Danish authorities planning to build a special unit to collaborate with other countries.

“Based on the recent findings, PET [Danish Security and Intelligence Service] and Copenhagen Police have decided to establish a common investigation unit, which will continue the ongoing investigation of the events,” said Copenhagen police department.

"On the basis of the preliminary investigations, PET and the Copenhagen Police have decided to set up a joint investigation group which will handle the further investigation of the incidents," the police department said, adding it is not possible to say when the investigation will conclude.

"We understand the great interest in the case, but at this time no further information will be released from the investigation into the gas leaks," it said.

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