The damage caused to the Balticconnector gas pipeline between Finland and Estonia was likely the result of an errant anchor dropped from a Hong Kong-registered shipping vessel, the Finnish National Bureau of Investigation announced on Oct. 24.
Following an investigation, the Finnish police believe that the 'Newnew Polar Bear,' a Chinese-owned fishing vessel flying under a Hong Kong flag, allegedly dropped an anchor into the Baltic Sea and dragged it along the seafloor, which appears to have caused damage to the pipeline.
The police said that attempts had been made to contact the owners of the Newnew Polar Bear, but they were not cooperative. They also noted that "particular attention will be paid to investigating if there has been any premeditation or negligence involved" with the pipeline damage, but did not indicate whether they believed it to be intentionally caused.
The 77-kilometer Finland-Estonia pipeline, known as the Balticconnector, was found to be leaking gas in Finnish waters of the Baltic Sea and shut off on Oct. 8. A nearby telecommunications cable was also damaged.
Initially, Finnish authorities believed that the damage had been caused by external sources, and some Finnish media named Russia as a suspect.
Latvian President Edgars Rinkevics echoed that sentiment, saying on Oct. 19 that NATO should "close the Baltic Sea....if it's clearly proven to be Russia."
In response, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said blocking Russia's access to the Baltic Sea was an "unacceptable" threat.
After the damage to the pipeline, NATO announced it would step up surveillance of the Baltic Sea.
The Baltic Sea has been under higher scrutiny for security threats after explosions damaged the Nord Stream pipeline in September 2022. Although the cause of the explosions has not been definitively proven, investigators found that the explosions were caused by deliberate sabotage. On Sept. 28, 2022, the Times newspaper reported, citing a British defense source, that Russia had likely carried out the attack with an underwater drone.
Danish naval vessels confirmed seeing a Russian SS-750 specialized vessel, which carries a submarine on board, close to the site of the pipeline just days before it was damaged.
Russia has denied any role in the Nord Stream sabotage.