‘Don’t listen to Putin’ – Biden denies West sabotaged Russian pipelines

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday accused the West of sabotaging Russian-built gas pipelines under the Baltic Sea to Germany, a charge vehemently denied by the United States and its allies. .

The Nordic nations said underwater explosions that damaged pipelines this week and led to huge methane leaks involved several hundred pounds of explosives.

The US-Russian clashes continued later during an emergency UN Security Council meeting in New York called by Russia on the attacks on the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines, and as researchers Norwegians published a map projecting that a huge plume of methane from the damaged pipelines will travel across large swathes of the Nordic region.

Speaking in Moscow on Friday at a ceremony to annex four regions of Ukraine to Russia, Putin claimed that the “Anglo-Saxons” in the West have moved from imposing sanctions on Russia to ” terrorist attacks”, sabotaging the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines in what he described as an attempt to “destroy Europe’s energy infrastructure”.

He added that “those who benefit from it have done so”, without naming any country in particular.

In Washington, US President Joe Biden dismissed Putin’s claims about the pipeline as outlandish.

“It was a deliberate act of sabotage. And now the Russians are spreading disinformation and lies. We will work with our allies to get to the bottom [of] precisely what happened,” Biden promised, adding that divers would be sent to inspect the pipelines. “Don’t listen to what Putin says. What he says, we know, is not true.

US officials said Putin’s assertion was trying to distract from his annexation of parts of Ukraine on Friday.

“We are not going to let Russia’s misinformation distract us or the world from its blatantly fraudulent attempt to annex sovereign Ukrainian territory,” the White House National Security Council spokeswoman said Friday. , Adrienne Watson.

At the United Nations, Sergey Kupriyanov, spokesman for Russian state-owned Gazprom, which is Nord Stream’s majority shareholder, told the council that the data regarding the sudden drop in pressure in the pipeline and the gas leak “allow us to say with certainty that the leaks in the pipelines were caused by physical damage.

Kupriyanov said in a video briefing that Gazprom had started researching possible solutions to make the Nord Stream system operational again. There is no estimate of how long this will take, he said, “but we can say with certainty that the task will be very strenuous from a technical point of view”.

Russia’s UN ambassador Vassily Nebenzia has made a host of allegations implicating the US in sabotage, including that it would benefit the US gas industry. He then asked if the US representative would indulge in “morbid fantasies about Russia and confirm that the United States” is not involved and has nothing to do with this sabotage?

US Deputy Ambassador Richard Mills accused Nebenzia of spreading “conspiracy theories and misinformation” and using “inflammatory rhetoric”.

“Let me answer his question. Let’s be clear: The United States categorically denies any involvement in this incident, and we reject any claims to the contrary,” Mills said.

Moscow says it wants a thorough international investigation to assess the damage caused to the pipelines, which were filled with gas but did not supply it to Europe. Putin’s spokesman said “it looks like a terrorist attack, probably carried out at the state level.”

European nations, which have been reeling from soaring energy prices caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, have noted that it is Russia, not Europe, that benefits from market chaos energy and soaring energy prices.

The United States has long opposed both pipelines and has repeatedly urged Germany to shut them down, saying they increase Europe’s energy dependence on Russia and diminish its security. Since the start of the war in Ukraine in February, Russia has cut supplies of natural gas sent to Europe to heat homes, generate electricity and run factories. European leaders have accused Putin of using “energy blackmail” to divide them in their strong support for Ukraine.

Russia halted gas flows through the 1,224 kilometer (760 mile) long Nord Stream 1 earlier this month, blaming technical problems, while the parallel Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline never opened.

Denmark and Sweden, meanwhile, said on Friday that explosions that rocked the Baltic Sea before huge methane leaks from pipelines “probably corresponded to an explosive charge of several hundred kilograms (pounds).”

The leaks occurred in international waters and “caused gas plumes rising to the surface”, the two Scandinavian countries wrote in a letter to the United Nations.

NATO has warned it will retaliate to any attack on critical infrastructure in its 30 member nations and joined other Western officials in citing sabotage as the likely cause of the damage. Denmark is a member of NATO and Sweden is in the process of joining the military alliance. Both say the pipelines were deliberately attacked.

At the UN, Russia is a permanent member of the Security Council, while neither Sweden nor Denmark will be represented at Friday’s meeting because they are not members.

The Integrated Carbon Observing System, a European research alliance, said “a huge amount of methane was released into the atmosphere” from the damaged pipelines, about the amount of methane emissions from a whole year for a city the size of Paris or a country. like Denmark.

“We assume that the wind over the leak area blew the methane emissions north towards the Finnish archipelago and then (the emissions) tilted towards Sweden and Norway,” said Stephen Platt, a professor at the Norwegian Air Research Institute, which is part of the group.

The data was collected from ground observations in Sweden, Norway and Finland. Experts say these levels of methane are not dangerous to public health but are a potent source of global warming.

The alleged sabotage caused two methane leaks off Sweden, including a large one over Nord Stream 1 and a smaller one over Nord Stream 2, and two leaks off Denmark.

The Nord Stream 2 leak “has diminished, but is still ongoing,” the Swedish coast guard said, increasing its warnings for ships to stay 7 nautical miles (13 kilometers, 8 mi) from blast zones.

Nordic seismologists recorded explosions preceding the leaks. A first explosion was recorded early Monday southeast of the Danish island of Bornholm. A second, stronger explosion northeast of the island hit that night and was equivalent to a magnitude 2.3 earthquake.

Denmark and Sweden also said they were concerned about “the possible impact of the explosions on maritime life in the Baltic Sea”.

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said she would travel to London to discuss the gas leaks with British Prime Minister Liz Truss. She will then travel to Brussels to raise the issue with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and European Council President Charles Michel.

Pipeline attacks have prompted European energy companies and governments to step up security around energy infrastructure.

Fear of further damage to European energy infrastructure has increased pressure on natural gas prices, which are already high and have caused widespread economic hardship across the continent.

Authorities in Norway, a major oil and gas producer, reported at least six drone sightings near offshore facilities in the North Sea, prompting the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway to “call for increased vigilance”. Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet said a drone was spotted near a Danish offshore oil and gas facility in the North Sea on Wednesday.

Sweden has also tightened security around its three nuclear power plants.

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