Belgium’s Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne said European countries should not be “naive” about the presence of a Russian “spy ship” in the North Sea, amid growing concerns that Moscow could carry out acts of sabotage on infrastructure.
“What happened to Nord Stream could happen also in the North Sea,” the justice minister told POLITICO on Wednesday. “We shouldn’t be naive,” he added.
In November last year, “we saw some suspect movements close to our windmills and pipelines — telecom pipelines and gas pipelines,” Van Quickenborne said, confirming earlier remarks he made on the subject and adding that it is likely the same ship that Dutch media had reported on this week.
On Monday, Dutch intelligence agencies AIVD and MIVD presented a report saying that Russia is “covertly mapping” critical infrastructure in the North Sea, including gas pipelines and wind farms, in preparation for potential acts of sabotage, with MIVD Director Jan Swillens telling a news conference that a Russian ship had been detected at an offshore wind farm.
In Belgium, the defense department tracked the ship on November 17, according to Van Quickenborne. As a result, Belgium has decided to buy software to “better locate those kinds of ships” and also put in place a law to better protect critical infrastructure, he said.
EU and NATO countries have stepped up efforts to protect critical infrastructure since the sabotage of the Nord Stream gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea in September. While no culprit for the attack has been identified, several Western leaders have blamed Russia.