Russian surveillance ship caught near gas pipeline days before Balticconnector accident
Admiral Vladimirsky (Photo - Wikipedia)

Satellite images of the accident site on the Balticconnector gas pipeline show that the Russian oceanographic research ship Admiral Vladimirsky, which is believed to perform reconnaissance missions, was operating in the area in early June, Finland's Helsingin Sanomat writes.

The Russian research ship Admiral Vladimirsky, according to satellite surveillance data, was approximately 13 km from the Balticconnector gas pipeline at the beginning of June.

On June 2, according to observers, the ship was sailing between Finland's Inkoo and Paldiski. During the next week and a half, Admiral Vladimirsky moved to the southern part of the Baltic Sea.

It is believed that this vessel is engaged in intelligence activities, the newspaper writes. According to journalists, such ships are used by the Russian Federation to collect data that can then be used for sabotage against objects of critical underwater infrastructure.

In June, the Russian research vessel Sibiryakov was also near the gas pipeline, which was spotted in the area of the Balticconnector route in August and September.

The outlet notes that these vessels are often operating at sea with AIS (automatic identification system) disabled, so modern technology and satellite imagery are used to detect them.

Even before the damage to the gas pipeline, data appeared that Russia is secretly marking a map of critical infrastructure facilities – namely in the North Sea at the time.

On October 25, the Finnish police, which is conducting an investigation into the damage to the Balticconnector gas pipeline, announced that they had lifted a broken anchor from the bottom. Judging by the tracks, it was dragged along the bottom across the route of the gas pipeline. The investigation is probing the involvement of the Hong Kong-flagged container ship Newnew Polar Bear in the incident.

Balticconnector is a pipeline that has connected the gas transmission systems of Finland and Estonia since 2019. Its carrying capacity is 7.2 million cubic meters per day, its length is 150 km, of which 77 km is at the bottom of the Gulf of Finland in the Baltic Sea.

On October 8, due to an emergency situation, gas supplies through the Balticconnector stopped.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg promised to "mount a determined response" if a deliberate attack on the Balticconnector is proven.

The submarine communications cable between Sweden and Estonia was cut at the same time as the Balticconnector gas pipeline. Sweden's Ministry of Defense said the cable "was damaged by external force or interference".