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Sweden closes probe into Nord Stream pipelines explosion

A leak from Nord Stream 2 in September 2022.
A leak from Nord Stream 2 in September 2022. Copyright AP/AP
Copyright AP/AP
By Katy Dartford with AP
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Swedish officials say the results of their investigation so far mean they do not have jurisdiction in the case.

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Sweden has decided to close its investigation into the explosions on the underwater Nord Stream gas pipelines 18 months ago, officials said on Wednesday.

The Nordic nation's investigation was one of three probes into the September 2022  explosions that hit the pipelines, which were built to carry Russian natural gas to Germany. 

Denmark and Germany are also examining the blasts, but officials say Sweden doesn't have jurisdiction to investigate.

The explosions happened as Europe attempted to wean itself off Russian energy sources following the Kremlin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, with the attack contributing to tensions that followed the start of the war. 

The undersea explosions ruptured the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, which was Russia’s main natural gas supply route to Germany until Russia cut off supplies at the end of August that year.

The blasts also damaged the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which never entered service because Germany suspended its certification process shortly before Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

The detonations took place about 80 metres underwater on the ocean floor in the Baltic Sea in the economic zones of Sweden and Denmark. Seismic measurements indicated that explosions took place shortly before the leaks were discovered.

Calling a halt

Public prosecutor Mats Ljungqvist of the Swedish Prosecution Authority said in a statement that its investigation "has been systematic and thorough”.

"Against the background of our current situation, we can state that Swedish jurisdiction does not apply,” he declared.

The prosecution authority said the primary purpose of its investigation was “to establish whether Swedish citizens were involved in the act and whether Swedish territory was used to carry out the act. This would thereby risk damaging Swedish interests or security”. 

Pipes at the landfall facilities of the 'Nord Stream 2' gas pipeline are pictured in Lubmin, northern Germany, on Feb. 15, 2022
Pipes at the landfall facilities of the 'Nord Stream 2' gas pipeline are pictured in Lubmin, northern Germany, on Feb. 15, 2022Michael Sohn/AP

Since Sweden and Swedish interests were not targeted, it said, “Swedish jurisdiction is thus lacking”.

Kenneth Øhlenschlæger Buhl of the Royal Danish Defense College said Sweden's surprising decision ”indicates there could have been some kind of a political involvement.”

Sweden stands in a sensitive position as it wants to join NATO and may not want to rock the boat further,” Øhlenschlæger Buhl said.

An international mystery

More than 16 months after the sabotage there is no accepted explanation with a series of unconfirmed reports variously accusing Russia, the US and Ukraine.

The pipelines have long been a target of criticism by the US and some of its allies, who warned that they posed a risk to Europe’s energy security by increasing dependence on Russian gas.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian officials have accused the US of staging the explosions, which they have described as a terror attack. The US has denied involvement.

In March 2023, German media reported that a pro-Ukraine group was involved in the sabotage using a vessel and setting off from the German port of Rostock. Ukraine rejected suggestions it might have ordered the attack and German officials voiced caution over the accusation.

The German and Danish investigations have yet to shed light on the incident. While Swedish prosecutors have said that a state actor was the most likely culprit, they cautioned that the identity of the perpetrator was still unclear and hinted that it was likely to remain so.

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