By Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen
COPENHAGEN (Reuters) – Denmark on Thursday invited the Russian-controlled operator of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline to help salvage an unidentified object found close to the only remaining intact gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea.
Three explosions last September on the Nord Stream pipelines built to deliver Russian gas to Germany have become another flashpoint in a standoff between the West and Russia set off by its invasion of Ukraine.
The blasts occurred in the exclusive economic zones of Sweden and Denmark. Both countries say the explosions were deliberate, but have yet to determine who was responsible.
Last week, Danish authorities said a tubular object, protruding around 40 cm (16 inches) from the seabed and 10 cm in diameter, had been found during an inspection of the last remaining intact pipeline by Swiss-based operator Nord Stream 2 AG.
“With a view to further clarifying the nature of the object, Danish authorities have decided to salvage the object with assistance from the Danish Defence,” the country’s Energy Agency said in a statement on Thursday.
“The Danish Energy Agency has in that context invited the owner of the pipeline, Nord Stream 2 AG, to participate in the operation,” it said, adding it was awaiting a response from the operator.
The pipeline operator is controlled by Russian state-owned gas company Gazprom.
Authorities have assessed that “the object does not pose any immediate safety risk,” the agency said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said last week that a ship rented by Gazprom had found an antenna-like object about 30 km (19 miles) from the explosion sites. It was not clear if he referred to the same object that Danish authorities will attempt to salvage.
The last intact pipeline has remained idle as Europe has cut most energy ties with Russia. The pipeline still contains gas, but the operator said last year it had lowered its pressure as a precaution.
(Reporting by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen; Editing by Marguerita Choy)