The investigation into the sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines is starting to gain traction, albeit slowly. The United States and Russia have announced plans to conduct independent investigations; Sweden, Denmark, and Germany disclosed their intentions to collaborate in a so-called ‘Joint Investigation Team’ (JIT) to investigate the attack on the underwater pipelines. Transparency seems to be the objective, and with that in mind, Swedish newspaper Expression published its own photos and videos of the ruptured pipeline.
The joint investigation plans, however, have been hampered by concerns about confidentiality. Sweden pulled back, arguing that the results of the investigation would be too confidential to share with other states. Soon thereafter, Denmark also pulled out. But the outgoing prime minister of Sweden, Magdalena Andersson, later denied such claims and confirmed that Sweden will “cooperate with Denmark and Germany in this matter,” albeit not as part of a JIT.
The extent of cooperation among the three nations is unclear, as all three have already conducted their own investigations. Added pressure comes from speculation about the accuracy of the data already collected. Images captured by Expressen’s underwater camera may represent a tainted crime scene, altered after the destruction occurred. The images suggest that “at least 50 meters” of the pipeline had been removed following the explosion, and imply that the explosive devices were used in great magnitude. Swedish intelligence found signs of “gross sabotage” caused by “likely hundreds of kilograms of explosives.”
On the weekend of the 8th and 9th of October, German Federal Police sent two ships of the German Navy to inspect and document the degree of destruction of the pipelines. Underwater drones took photos of the damage, but the divers that came along were not deployed, according to a report by the German news broadcast Tagesschau, as they didn’t bring along the necessary equipment for a 70-meter dive.
So far, none of the investigations unearthed new clues about who might have been behind the act of sabotage. While some conservative outlets and media personalities in the United States, like Tucker Carlson of Fox News, suspect, given the opposition of the Biden administration to the Nord Stream pipeline, that the U.S. could be behind the sabotage, most German news media seems to be betting on a Russian false flag operation. But, when asked by the media whether the Swedish investigations confirm the suspicion of Russian involvement, the then-Swedish PM Andersson said that she “didn’t know.”
Russia referred to these speculations as “stupid and absurd” and announced it won’t recognize any “pseudo-results” of western investigations undertaken without Russian participation. The Russian call for involvement in the investigation has been rejected by Sweden, but Andersson had told Reuters that Russian vessels can’t be stopped from visiting the sites of the explosions and doing their own research.