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Germany launches probe into suspected Nord Stream 'sabotage'

October 10, 2022

German federal prosecutors announced an investigation into suspected blasts that damaged gas pipelines between Russia and Europe. Berlin has now joined Denmark and Sweden in gathering clues about the Baltic Sea leaks.

Still from a Swedish surveillance video showing gas pouring into the Baltic Sea
The Nord Stream leaks, thought to be deliberate, released massive amounts of gas into the Baltic Sea Image: Swedish Coast Guard Handout/Anadolu Agency/picture alliance

Germany's federal public prosecutor on Monday announced the start of an investigation into leaks in the Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 gas pipelines.

Germany now joins Denmark and Sweden in seeking to get to the bottom of leaks that saw massive amounts of gas released into the Baltic Sea after both pipelines were ruptured on September 26.

What did prosecutors say?

Federal prosecutors are investigating "persons unknown" suspected of "anti-constitutional sabotage" on the pipelines as well as "deliberately causing an explosion."

"Yes, we have started an investigation," a spokesperson for the prosecutor's office told Reuters news agency.

The investigation will allow German authorities to gather evidence to determine if a crime was indeed committed.

Germany's federal prosecutor's office usually only opens probes into cases that concern national security, such as terror attacks.

The office said its involvement in the pipeline leaks was justified in that a "violent attack on the energy supply could impact the external and internal security" of Germany, a spokesperson told news agency AFP.

German Justice Minister Marco Buschmann promised investigators would work in coordination with European partners to ascertain who may have been behind the pipeline leaks. Buschmann added, "We will not be intimidated by attacks on the Nord Stream pipelines."

Federal prosecutors say the probe is primarily aimed at "identifying the perpetrator or perpetrators as well as the possible motive."

Sweden's Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson on Monday said Stockholm wouldn't share findings with Russia. Moreover, Sweden said it rejects Russian calls to be part of a joint investigation, though she said Moscow was free to conduct its own investigation should it choose to do so.

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What do we know about the pipeline leaks?

It is largely suspected that the leaks in the Baltic Sea were caused by explosives placed near the pipelines, which deliver Russian natural gas to Germany.

Western leaders heavily suspect Russia was behind the attack, whereas Russian President Vladimir Putin has sought to paint it as a Western plot to destroy Europe's energy infrastructure.

Germany's federal police as well as the federal criminal office will be involved in the investigation.

"There is sufficient factual evidence that the two gas pipelines were deliberately damaged by at least two detonations," the prosecutor's office told German news agency DPA.

The spokesperson noted, however, that "quick results are not to be expected."

js/rs (AFP, dpa, Reuters)