Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 Pipelines Blasts

A rapid plunge in gas pressure and fuel leakage were detected along the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines, built to carry a combined annual 110 billion cubic meters of Russian gas to Europe, on 26 September.

A month-long probe by Russia’s Ministry of Defense revealed that Britain’s Royal Navy took part in the planning and execution of the sabotage.

Two unidentified vessels passed close by the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines before the underwater blasts there on 26 September, according to newly revealed analysis of satellite imagery, prompting further speculation regarding what Russia has condemned as an “obvious terrorist attack.”

Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 Pipelines Blast
Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 Pipelines Blast

Here is what we know about the two ships so far:

‘Dark Vessels’

The pair of ships that made their way through the area where explosions occurred on 26 September at three of the four strings of Nord Stream 1 and 2 underwater pipelines were “dark ships,” satellite data monitoring firm SpaceKnow says.

This means that the vessels had their automatic identification system (AIS) transponders deactivated for some reason. This is highly unusual, as international regulations state that all large craft must install AIS and keep it turned on.

The tracking system is instrumental in navigating and avoiding collisions with other vessels. Since the ships in question had their beacons off, they did not broadcast their names, position, the direction they were traveling, or speed.

There does exist the possibility that the AIS could have failed. But with this particular area of the Baltic Sea being one of the busiest sea routes, any vessel deliberately shutting down its tracker can be suspected of being guided by clandestine motives.

‘Glowing Objects’

The unknown vessels could be seen as “glowing objects” in the vicinity of the subsequent Nord Stream leak sites in the synthetic aperture radar (SAR) images provided by satellites. The unidentified vessels were of a significant size, each measuring from about 95 to 130 meters, according to the imagery analysis.

SAR technology creates images by bouncing radio waves off the surface. In the case of metal objects, the imagery shows them as bright, and “glowing”, as was the case with the two vessels.

‘Days Before the Blasts’

The detection of the vessels came after examining at least 90 days’ worth of archived satellite images of the “area of interest”.

The point of the explosions was then zoomed-in on, with the analysis covering a range of about 400 square meters in the immediate vicinity of the incident, as well as an outlying area stretching for several kilometers.

Archive imagery revealed that in the weeks that preceded the attack on Nord Stream 1 and 2 underwater pipelines, 25 vessels had made their way along this specific route in the Baltic sea, ranging from “cargo ships to multipurpose larger ships”.

The two vessels in question were singled out specifically because the 23 other ships all had their AIS beacons in operational mode.

More importantly, these large, unidentified vessels passed within the vicinity of the area where a series of explosions rocked the Nord Stream pipelines carrying Russian gas to Germany occurred just days later.

When a spate of explosions rocked the Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 pipelines on 26 September, Europe lost access to up to 110 billion cubic meters of natural gas, prompting a gas price rise and a scramble for alternative sources in the European Union.

A month-long investigation led the Russian military to conclude that Britain’s Royal Navy was behind the sabotage. Moscow has condemned the Nord Stream incident as an “obvious terrorist attack”.

Royal Navy Involved in Nord Stream Sabotage
Britain’s Royal Navy

Spokeswoman of Russia’s Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, said the world needed to know more about a text message allegedly sent by former UK Prime Minister Liz Truss to US State Secretary Antony Blinken minutes after the targeting of the Nord Stream pipeline network.

Earlier, Kim Dotcom, the founder of Megaupload file-sharing website, tweeted that Truss had ostensibly used her iPhone to send a message to Blinken saying “It’s done” just minutes after the pipeline explosion.

According to the entrepreneur, the text Truss sent is well known to the intelligence service of Russia and is the reason Moscow believes that the United Kingdom was involved in the bombing attack.

  • Sputnik