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Finnish police say that anchor from Hong Kong shipping most likely cause of Baltic pipeline damage

by Nate Ostiller and The Kyiv Independent news desk November 10, 2023 4:23 PM 2 min read
An employee operating a valve at a compression station of the Balticconnector marine gas pipeline in Inga, Finland on Nov. 5, 2019. (Mikko Stig/Lehtikuva/AFP via Getty Images)
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The damage caused to the Balticconnector gas pipeline between Finland and Estonia was most likely the result of an errant anchor dropped from a Hong Kong-registered shipping vessel, the Finnish National Bureau of Investigation said on Nov. 10.

The anchor matched the technical specifications and the paint matched that of the Newnew Polar Bear, a Chinese-owned fishing vessel flying under a Hong Kong flag.

It was previously reported on Oct. 24 that the Finnish police believed that the ship had dropped an anchor into the Baltic Sea and dragged it along the seafloor, which appeared to have caused damage to the pipeline.

Although the investigation is still incomplete, the Finnish police said that the "focus is still on clearing up the role of the vessel Newnew Polar Bear."

The police did not say if the damage appeared to be intentional and added that Chinese authorities have been contacted for the purposes of "legal assistance" and to obtain more information.

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.

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