Sweden closes Nord Stream gas pipeline investigation amid political complications

The Swedish Prosecution Authority announced on Wednesday the closure of its investigation into the Nord Stream gas pipeline explosions, citing a lack of jurisdiction in the case.

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This file photo provided by the Swedish Coast Guard on Sept. 28, 2022 shows a gas leak on the Nord Stream 1 pipeline. (The Swedish Coast Guard/Handout via Xinhua)

The Swedish Prosecution Authority announced on Wednesday the closure of its investigation into the Nord Stream gas pipeline explosions, citing a lack of jurisdiction in the case.

As the 16-month-long investigation concludes, the authorities, who identified the incident as a “gross sabotage” possibly involving “a state actor,” have failed to pinpoint any culprits.

Analysts believe Sweden’s ultimate decision to transfer and relinquish the “hot potato” to Germany is driven by intricate and delicate political considerations.

EVIDENCE OVER TO GERMANY

“The investigation into gross sabotage against Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines is closed, as Swedish jurisdiction does not apply,” stated the Swedish Public Prosecution Authority.

Prosecutor Mats Ljungqvist, remaining tight-lipped due to secrecy, refrained from providing further details or commenting on any suspected individuals involved.

The primary purpose of the investigation was to uncover whether Swedish territory and citizens were involved in the act, thereby risking damaging Swedish interests or security, said the authority.

But the investigation showed “nothing has emerged to indicate that Sweden or Swedish citizens were involved in the attack which took place in international waters,” it added.

Calling the investigation “systematic and thorough,” Ljungqvist said the authority had analyzed many ship movements, conducted an extensive crime scene investigation and held several interviews.

He added that Sweden has provided potential evidence to the ongoing German investigation, aligning with the concurrent Danish inquiry into the matter.

On Wednesday, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov stated that Russia has consistently sought updates on the investigation’s progress but has been denied access to the information. He added, “We will monitor subsequent investigative actions and make decisions accordingly.”

MYSTERY REMAINS UNRESOLVED

The Nord Stream pipelines, which transported natural gas from Russia to European markets via Germany, were severely damaged in September 2022 after blasts in the Baltic Sea.

Denmark, Sweden and Germany launched investigations following the explosion, which resulted in four leaks. Russia’s participation in the investigations was denied.

In March last year, the Swedish prosecutor labeled the gas pipeline explosions as “gross sabotage” with a potential state actor involvement.

Despite unverified reports implicating the United States, Ukraine and Russia, no suspects have been publicly identified. All parties have denied involvement 16 months after the incident.

Washington and some of its allies have long criticized the pipelines, warning they posed a risk to Europe’s energy security due to dependence on Russian gas.

The credibility and logic of a 5,000-word investigative report titled “How America Took Out The Nord Stream Pipeline” by Pulitzer Prize winner Seymour Hersh in February last year stand out among various revelations.

Hersh revealed that the sabotage of the pipelines was a secret operation ordered by the White House, implemented by the CIA and assisted by the Norwegian Navy. But the White House and the Norwegian foreign ministry both denied involvement.

The Washington Post reported in April last year that Western officials would rather not know who bombed the Nord Stream pipelines, fearing it might implicate their own allies.

POLITICAL COMPLEX BEHIND

The investigation is “a hot potato” for Sweden, security reporter John Granlund said in an analysis on Swedish Television on Tuesday, commenting on the expected results.

“Every decision by the authorities risks having consequences for the security policy. By all accounts, the choice ultimately fell on the easiest path — to let Germany finish the job,” he said.

Granlund said the arrangement is convenient for Sweden as “all other solutions would have led the Swedish authorities down a path where they had to single out a possible perpetrator or state.”

Sources with insight into the matter said both the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Justice have been consulted due to the issue’s sensitivity as it involves security policy and foreign powers.

“If the Swedish Prosecution Authority and the Security Service had opted for a more offensive solution, for example, singling out a country, the government and the authorities would have been faced with difficult follow-up questions about, for example, why they don’t go all the way and take measures against the state responsible,” he analyzed.

Kenneth Buhl of the Royal Danish Defense College said Sweden’s surprising decision “indicates there could have been some kind of a political involvement,” Euronews reported.

“Sweden stands in a sensitive position as it wants to join NATO and may not want to rock the boat further,” Buhl was quoted as saying.

Sweden is currently the only Nordic state that has yet to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Analysts point out that Sweden, which has abandoned its long-standing policy of military non-alignment but is not yet covered by NATO’s collective defense, hopes the United States could advance the accession process.

In December last year, Sweden and the United States signed a new defense cooperation agreement, granting U.S. military access to the country’s 17 military bases, which allows prepositioned stocks of military equipment and operations on Swedish territory, according to Swedish Armed Forces.

“I assume that the U.S. was behind the Nord Stream destruction … It is a plausible theory, therefore, that Sweden wants to avoid conflicts with and please the U.S.,” Jan Oberg, director of the Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research, told Xinhua on Wednesday.

He said the Swedish Prosecution Authority’s “decision and weak argument are highly remarkable,” emphasizing that “pure politics once again overrule the truth.”

Xinhua News Agency

Founded in 1931, Xinhua News Agency is one of the largest news organizations in the world, with over 10,000 employees across the globe. As the main source of news and information for China, Xinhua plays a key role in shaping the country's media landscape and communicating its perspectives to the world. The agency produces a wide range of content, including text news articles, photos, videos, and social media posts, in both Chinese and English, and its reports are widely used by media organizations around the world. Xinhua also operates several international bureaus, including in key capitals like Washington, D.C., Moscow, and London, to provide in-depth coverage of global events.

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