Russian Ships Spotted Near Nord Stream Pipelines Before Explosions: Report

Russian navy support ships were reportedly spotted near the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines before they were ruptured by explosions. The claims come as Moscow has again denied involvement in the suspected sabotage, instead blaming the U.S.

Citing Western intelligence officials, CNN said that the alleged presence of Russian vessels was being investigated as a cause of underwater explosions in the Baltic Sea, as Moscow faces accusations that it's trying to manipulate energy flows to hurt Europe.

Nord Stream pipeline station
A receiving station for the Nord Stream 1 natural gas pipeline stands on July 11, 2022 near Lubmin, Germany. Russia has rejected claims that it was behind the suspected sabotage of the pipeline in the Baltic Sea. Sean Gallup/Getty Images

However, three U.S. officials said to CNN that America had no clear explanation for the explosions on Monday, which caused three separate and simultaneous leaks in the two pipelines that link Russia with Germany. On Thursday, Sweden said it found a fourth leak.

Denmark and Sweden are investigating what caused the explosion, but it could take up to two weeks to approach the site of the explosions due to pressure in the pipes, CNN said.

A Danish military official said that Russian vessels regularly operated in the area and had stepped up their activities there to test Western awareness, but this did not mean in itself that Moscow was responsible for the suspected attacks.

Senior Western officials have not directly blamed Russia, although a major suspect, while the Kremlin has dismissed speculation that it was behind the damaged pipelines.

Meanwhile, the Russian embassy in the U.S. has reacted strongly to the innuendo that a deliberate targeting of the pipeline was part of Vladimir Putin's ploy to test Western resolve in the face of his invasion of Ukraine.

In a statement on its Telegram social media account, the embassy mocked claims from "U.S. legislators" who "perhaps... have a better view from the top of Capitol Hill."

"But if that is the case, they must also have seen the U.S. warships' activities at the very site of the Russian infrastructure disruption just the day before," the statement read. "Or noticed drones and helicopters fly over there."

The statement did not say which American warships were in the area, but Russian news outlet said on Wednesday how a U.S. Air Force helicopter had been seen near the pipelines the night before the accident, citing data from Flightradar.

The Russian embassy's statement also referred to U.S. Navy exercises "with underwater explosives that have been conducted in the same area some time ago."

Earlier in September, U.S. Navy amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge took part in exercises in the Baltic Sea. Washington has dismissed Moscow's claims that it was responsible for the damage to the pipes.

However, the Russian embassy said that energy trade between Moscow and Europe was an "eyesore" for the U.S., which had been seeking to "squeeze out" Moscow as a competitor on the energy market and get allies "hooked" on American imports of LNG (liquefied natural gas).

"We insist on the need for a comprehensive and objective examination of the circumstances of the unprecedented attacks on Russian pipelines," the statement read.

Newsweek has contacted the U.S. State Department for comment.

There is gas in Nord Stream 1, but Russia closed it in August, saying it needed maintenance, and its twin pipeline, Nord Stream 2, was halted after Russia invaded Ukraine in February.

Pavel Zavalny, head of Russia's parliamentary energy committee, said on Wednesday that repair on the pipelines may take up to six months, according to state news agency Tass.