Finnish authorities have launched a criminal investigation into the possible sabotage of an undersea gas pipeline between Finland and Estonia, two NATO allies.
Finland’s National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) says it has begun collecting evidence at the site of a leak, which was detected on Oct. 8.
Two days later, Finland’s President Sauli Niinistö said though the exact cause of the damage is unknown, “it is likely that the damage to both the gas pipeline and the data cable is caused by external activity.”
The president’s office also stated that he has consulted with NATO’s Secretary General, as well as his nation’s allies.
Analysts have suggested a wide range of potential causes of the leak.
“The damage appears to have been caused by mechanical force, not an explosion,” NBI chief inspector Risto Lohi said. “At the moment we are determining what happened and (who) may have been involved. Considering the situation, we will not speculate, but work to find facts, analyze them and then draw conclusions about what caused the damage.”
The pipeline damage comes just a year after the demolition of the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline, which ran from Russia to Germany through the Baltic Sea.
Unnamed sources within the U.S. government have claimed that the Biden administration ordered the destruction of Nord Stream 2 to prevent Russia from gaining influence over Europe by providing cheap energy.
Despite public vows to not speculate as to what (or who) was behind the leak, privately, Finnish authorities believe it was an act of sabotage perpetrated by Russia.
“It seems that the Finnish defence forces and senior figures in the government strongly suspect it was Russia,” Charly Salonius-Pasternak, a security and defense expert, told The Telegraph. “Who would have an interest in sabotaging the pipeline? There are not a lot of countries that have the capabilities and motivation to do this. There’s basically just one.”
Officials believe Russia’s motive for doing so could be to punish Finland for joining NATO this spring, The Telegraph reported. Finland and Estonia stopped importing Russian oil and gas last year as a part of sanctions package designed to punish Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine.
NATO has promised a “determined” response if it is shown that the gas pipeline between Finland and Estonia was damaged intentionally.