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Sweden closes probe into Nord Stream pipeline blast

The cause of the explosions on the gas route remains a point of sharp debate between Russia, Ukraine and the West.

Gas leaks from Nord Stream into the Baltic Sea, September 2022 [Handout/Danish Defence Command via Reuters]Published On 7 Feb 20247 Feb 2024

Sweden has said it has closed an investigation into the 2022 explosions that crippled Russia’s Nord Stream pipelines.

Prosecutors in Stockholm announced on Wednesday that they had wrapped up their probe into the apparent attack in September 2022, nearly seven months after Russia invaded Ukraine.

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The still unexplained explosions on Nord Steam’s 1 and 2 came as Europe struggled to wean itself off the huge volumes of Russian gas imports that they delivered to Germany, with the Kremlin, Ukraine and West all swapping accusations.

The Swedish authorities, who have previously said that they suspect an unknown state actor of responsibility, said that they are halting the probe after verifying that the case does not fall under its jurisdiction.

The primary purpose, public prosecutor Mats Ljungqvist said, had been “to establish whether Swedish citizens were involved in the act and whether Swedish territory was used to carry out the act”.

Neither case applied he added. “Against the background of the situation we now have, we can state that Swedish jurisdiction does not apply.”

A probe by Germany’s prosecutors is still ongoing, Ljungqvist noted, adding that his team has handed over material to the German investigators.

No explanation

The undersea explosions ruptured the Nord Stream 1 pipeline on September 27. It was Russia’s main natural gas supply route to Germany until Moscow cut off supplies at the end of August that year.

The blasts also damaged the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which never entered service because Germany suspended its certification process shortly before Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

Beyond the geopolitical impact, the leaks triggered an environmental disaster, with local wildlife affected and huge volumes of methane discharged into the Baltic Sea in what analysts believe could be the single largest release of methane due to human activity.

The detonations took place about 80 meters (260 feet) under the water on the ocean floor of the Baltic Sea in the economic zones of Sweden and Denmark. Seismic measurements indicated that explosions took place shortly before the leaks were discovered.

More than 16 months after the sabotage there is no accepted explanation. A series of reports has variously accused Russia, the United States and Ukraine of sabotage.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian officials have accused the US of staging the explosions, which they have described as a terror attack. The US has denied involvement.

In March 2023, German media claimed that a pro-Ukraine group had sabotaged the pipelines using a vessel that set out from the port of Rostock. Ukraine rejected suggestions it might have ordered the attack and German officials voiced caution over the report.

‘Remarkable’

The Swedish prosecutors have previously said that a state actor was the most likely culprit. However, they have cautioned that the identity of the perpetrator was still unclear and hinted that it was likely to remain so.

The Kremlin called the Swedish decision to end its probe “remarkable”.

Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Russia will now watch what Germany does to investigate the explosions.

Danish police said on Wednesday that their own investigation continues and that they expect to provide more information on it “within a short time”.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies