Russian vessels with their transponders off were spotted near the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines in the Baltic Sea shortly before the pipelines blew up in 2022. One of the vessels was present at the location 5 days before the incident, according to an investigation by Sweden’s TV channel SVT, Denmark’s DR, Norway’s NRK, and Finland’s Yle.
Intercepted ratio transmissions Uppdrag granskning company got access to show that an SB-123 of the RF Baltic fleet ship was passing in the vicinity of the sabotage site on 21 September.
This vessel was previously named by German news site T-Online as one of the six vessels suspected of being involved in the Nord Stream sabotage, as they were in the area on 21 September and 22 September, according to German intelligence sources.
The first naval vessel sailed from a naval base in Kaliningrad to the area southeast of Karlskrona, east of Bornholm, arriving on the morning of 7 June. The ship cruised for several hours right in the area where the Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines run, the investigation says.
“It is interesting because it points to activity taking place below the sea surface. There is an assemblage of ships out there that together with the positions indicate that something has happened on the seafloor that may have been connected to the explosions. Without us being able to say that this is the case,” says Jens Wenzel Kristoffersen, sea captain and military analyst at the University of Copenhagen.
The other naval vessel is the 86-metre-long Sibiryakov, which approached the same area on 14 June, a week later. The ship remained near or just above the Nord Stream pipelines until the next day, sometimes at low speeds.
The Russian ships had their tracking systems turned off, and their location information was not recorded. But intercepted radio communications sent from the ships to Russian naval bases reveal the ships' position, speed and direction of travel.
On 26 September, two separate gas leaks were detected in Nord Stream 1 in Denmark’s exclusive economic zone northeast of Bornholm Island. Another rupture was recorded later in Nord Stream 2 southeast of the island. Swedish and Danish seismological stations identified powerful underwater explosions in the same area.
Der Tagesspiegel reported that the pipelines could have been damaged in a deliberate attack that was either masterminded by Ukraine or Russia.
The New York Times cited US officials to claim that US intelligence community data points to the fact that a “pro-Ukrainian group” was behind the Nord Stream attack. At the same time, The Washington Post stressed that there had been no evidence proving that the explosions were linked to any particular country.
The Danish Defence Command reported on 28 April that a Russian vessel was near the explosion site of the Nord Stream pipeline in the Baltic Sea.