TBILISI/LONDON—Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday accused the United States and its allies of blowing up the undersea Nord Stream pipeline, raising the temperature of the crisis. Europe is racing to secure energy infrastructure and supplies.
“Sanctions were not enough for the Anglo-Saxons. They embarked on subversive activities,” Putin said. “It’s hard to believe, but it’s true that they organized an explosion on the Nord Stream international gas pipeline.”
“They started destroying the pan-European energy infrastructure,” Putin said. “It’s obvious to everyone who benefits from this. Of course, those who benefit did it.”
The US has dismissed the story of responsibility.
European Union nations, once heavily dependent on Russia but now seeking alternative gas supplies, believe the gas leak was caused by sabotage, but have not named anyone.
The Nord Stream pipeline, which was not delivering gas to Europe when the leak was discovered and contained gas, has been a flashpoint in the energy conflict between the West and Russia since the invasion of Ukraine.
The EU is investigating how Russia’s Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 pipelines ruptured this week, spilling gas into the Baltic Sea off Denmark and Sweden. Seismologists have recorded an explosion in the area.
The rupture could mark the largest single release of methane ever recorded, the United Nations Environment Program said on Friday, as researchers detected a huge plume of methane in satellite imagery this week.
The Danish Energy Agency said on Friday that gas would continue to leak from Nordstream 1, but the leak at Nordstream 2 is expected to stop on Saturday.
The pipeline accident has prompted European countries to heighten their vigilance against other critical infrastructures.
Italy, an early starter in pulling away from Russian supplies, is stepping up naval oversight and control over pipelines that carry gas into the country from the south and east, a senior official told Reuters.
These include the TransMed pipeline between Algeria and Sicily, the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) between Azerbaijan and Puglia, and the GreenStream connection between Libya and Sicily.
Rome also issued a warning to the Trans-Austrian Gas (TAG) pipeline, which carries fuel from the Nordic countries to northeastern Italy.
Meanwhile, Poland’s power grid operator announced on Friday a check of a submarine cable carrying power from Sweden that crosses the damaged Nord Stream pipeline.
There is also increased interest in Baltic Pipes, a project announced this week. Baltic Pipe will transport gas to markets in Denmark and Poland as well as end-users in neighboring countries from October 1st.
Fitch Solutions, citing the Baltic pipeline, said: “Risks to near-term gas flows have risen sharply due to concerns that further sabotage could occur in critical gas import pipelines. ‘ said.
“The potential for further sabotage of critical infrastructure raises the risk of war developing into a wider regional conflict.”
Norway, Russia’s main rival in gas supplies, plans to deploy troops to protect its oil and gas facilities from sabotage after unidentified drone sightings were alerted in September. UK, France and Germany will also help.
Germany’s energy regulator has called for greater protection of critical energy infrastructure in an interview with Reuters.
With no gas flowing through the Nord Stream in the near future, European countries are racing to secure more energy supplies and try to protect their homes from the price explosion since last year.
European Union nations on Friday agreed to impose an emergency tax on energy companies’ windfall profits and began tougher negotiations on imposing a block-wide gas price cap.
In the Netherlands, citizens are starting to stockpile wood and coal to save on skyrocketing gas prices.
Poland and the Czech Republic have asked the European Commission to revive a stalled gas pipeline project connecting the two countries.
Gas network operators in Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Slovakia have also proposed to transport additional natural gas supplies pledged by Azerbaijan to Europe.
Jake Cordell and Nina Chestney