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Why did Denmark, Sweden drop Nord Stream blast probe?

Danmark found deliberate sabotage responsible for blasts but no sufficient grounds for a criminal case. Sweden concluded that Swedish jurisdiction does not apply and has handed material over to Germany.

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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)

 Denmark announced the end of its investigation into the 2022 Nord Stream natural gas pipeline explosion this Monday, joining Sweden, which dropped its probe on Feb. 7, giving neither a clear conclusion nor further directions.

The elusive and absurd results add mystery to the attack on a key piece of infrastructure designed to transport natural gas from Russia to Europe.

ELUSIVE CONCLUSION

What did they find? Nothing conclusive.

Danish police found deliberate sabotage responsible for blasts but no sufficient grounds for a criminal case. The Swedish Prosecution Authority concluded in February that Swedish jurisdiction does not apply and has handed over to Germany “material that can be used as evidence in the German investigation.”

Though tight-lipped regarding the final results, Swedish prosecutor Mats Ljungqvist said in April that a state actor was “directly or at least indirectly behind all this” and that this was the “absolute main scenario,” without naming any country.

The German federal prosecutor’s office said on Monday that its investigation continues and that it would not provide more information.

No culprit. And no further legal procedures are to follow.

“The situation is close to absurd. On the one hand, (authorities) have recognized that a deliberate sabotage had taken place, and on the other hand, there would be no further progress,” Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday.

“We will certainly monitor (the situation), and if there will be any opportunities to obtain information, we will use these opportunities, but for now the situation is quite paradoxical,” Peskov said.

Earlier on Sept. 26, 2022, leakages were reported in three of the four Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines running from Vyborg, Russia to Lubmin, Germany through the Baltic Sea. The blasts occurred in international waters to the southeast of the Danish island of Bornholm and within the economic zones of Denmark and Sweden, which both opened investigations into the incident in addition to Germany. Denmark, Sweden and Germany all refused to include the Russian side.

With one of the Nord Stream 2 pipes intact, Russian President Vladimir Putin reconfirmed Russia is ready to supply natural gas to Europe in an interview in February.

Nord Stream is a collaborative project between Russia and German, Dutch, and French stakeholders with the Russian state-owned enterprise Gazprom holding the majority.

Nord Stream 1 entered service in 2012 while Nord Stream 2 was completed in 2021 but has never entered into operation due to U.S. obstruction until the explosion, when both pipes were filled with gas but not operating due to the Ukraine conflict.

THEORIES ABOUND

Various theories regarding the most likely suspects abound.

A popular claim from the West insists that Russia sabotaged the pipeline to threaten Europe. However, many analysts pointed out that if Russia wanted to cut off the gas supply, it only needed to switch off the valve, without blowing up the pipeline that it had invested money to build.

Seymour Hersh, a Pulitzer-winning American investigative journalist, released a detailed report in February 2023, on the U.S. operation to blast the pipeline with assistance from the Norwegian army. Hersh said that the United States destroyed the pipeline to prevent Germany from using this “energy artery” to ensure that European countries follow NATO in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Observers share the consensus that Washington has both the ability and the motive for such behavior.

In March 2023, Western media including The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Der Spiegel reported claims from U.S. intelligence officials that a pro-Ukrainian group carried out the blast without the knowledge or involvement of Ukrainian authorities. The Russian side brushed off such a claim as “sheer nonsense” that was trying to cover up the real culprit.

With Washington, Moscow, and Kiev all denying responsibility, it has become hard to navigate the delicate geopolitical situation.

The investigation is “a hot potato” for Sweden, security reporter John Granlund said in an analysis on Swedish television after Stockholm closed the case.

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

“I believe that the Germans cannot reach any other conclusion,” Kenneth Buhl of the Royal Danish Defense College was quoted by The Associated Press as saying. “They may open the lid a little more, but not much.”

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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