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NATO to increase Baltic Sea patrols after recent damage to Finland-Estonia pipeline

by Nate Ostiller and The Kyiv Independent news desk October 19, 2023 10:15 PM 2 min read
A Polish Navy ORP Kaszub corvette ship is seen in the Baltic Sea port of Gdynia, Poland, on 17 June 2023 (Michal Fludra/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
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NATO announced on Oct. 19 that it will ramp up patrols of the Baltic Sea after an underwater pipeline connecting Finland to Estonia was found to be damaged on Oct. 8 in a likely deliberate act.

The heightened surveillance will include "reconnaissance flights, including with maritime patrol aircraft, NATO AWACS planes, and drones (as well as) a fleet of four NATO minehunters," the announcement said.

“NATO will continue to adapt its maritime posture in the Baltic Sea and will take all necessary steps to keep Allies safe,” said acting NATO spokesperson Dylan White.

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.

Finnish Prime Minister Petteri Orpo told reporters at a news conference the same day that the damage “could not have occurred as a result of normal use of the pipe or pressure fluctuations."

In addition, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said that "the cause of the damage is not yet clear," but is likely "the result of external activity.”

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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