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Pipeline damage probe centers on Chinese ship, Finland says

Pipeline damage probe centers on Chinese ship, Finland says

by host

The investigation into the damaged gas pipeline connecting Finland to the rest of Europe is focusing on the role of a Chinese ship, the Finnish National Bureau of Investigation said late Friday.

“The movements of the vessel Newnew Polar Bear flying the flag of Hong Kong coincide with the time and place of the gas pipeline damage,” the investigators said in a statement. “For this reason, the investigation is now focused on the role of the said vessel.”

The 77-kilometer Balticconnector pipeline, which is key to ensure Finland’s energy security, was switched off last week after the Finnish gas grid’s operator Gasgrid reported that it was leaking.

Finnish officials quickly pointed out that the pipes could have been sabotaged, with Prime Minister Petteri Orpo saying the leak was “not exactly the act of an ordinary person.

The incident comes as European countries are increasingly concerned about the vulnerabilities of their energy infrastructure ahead of winter, amid Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

In September 2022, the Nord Stream gas pipelines connecting Russia to Germany were damaged by several explosions, and an international investigation has so far not been able to identify the culprit.

The lead investigator, Detective Superintendent Risto Lohi, on Friday said that the damage to the Finnish pipeline had “been caused by an external mechanical force” but that there was “no reason to believe the damage ha[d] been caused by an explosion.”

Lohi added that Finland would “cooperate with Chinese authorities in order to establish the role” of the Chinese vessel.

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