Estonia seeks China’s help over downed communications cables in the Baltic Sea

Finnish Navy divers provide support to civil authorities in investigating damage to gas pipelines in the Gulf of Finland, in this undated bulletin. Finnish Navy/Release via Reuters This image was provided by a third party. Mandatory credit. No resale. There is no archive. Obtaining licensing rights

VILNIUS (Reuters) – Estonia has contacted Chinese authorities as part of its investigation into how two cables cut off communications in the Baltic Sea, the Estonian Foreign Ministry said on Monday.

Early on October 8, a gas pipeline and communications cable connecting Finland and Estonia under the Baltic Sea were broken, in what Finnish investigators say may have been deliberate sabotage.

Last week, the Estonian government said that “human intervention” had damaged the cable, and may also have been responsible for the partial disruption that night of another underwater communications cable between Estonia and Sweden.

Reuters reported that two ships, the Hong Kong-flagged NewNew Polar Bear and the Russian-flagged Sevmorput, were present in all three locations around the time of the damage, according to data from MarineTraffic, a ship tracking and maritime analytics company.

Location of the damaged gas pipe

These incidents have raised concerns about energy security in the wider Nordic region, and prompted NATO to increase its patrols in the Baltic Sea and Helsinki to contact Moscow and Beijing through diplomatic channels about the incidents.

Helsinki is investigating damage to the pipeline and in Tallinn to cables.

Last week, Estonian investigators said they were examining the role of the two ships, and whether the damage to the communications cables was intentional, or the result of negligence.

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“Estonia is in contact with the Chinese authorities to encourage cooperation regarding the investigation,” a Foreign Ministry spokesperson said in an email to Reuters on Monday.

The spokesman said Estonia wanted to encourage “any cooperation necessary for the investigation,” adding that Russia had not been contacted “because we did not see the need for it.”

Earlier on Monday, China called for an “objective, fair and professional” investigation into the damage to the gas pipeline.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman told reporters: “It is understood that the Chinese ship was normal in the relevant waters at the time of the incident, and nothing abnormal was found due to the poor sea conditions at the time.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Monday reiterated Moscow’s denials of any involvement.

He said that any threats against Russia were “unacceptable”, in response to Latvian President Edgars Rinkevich’s call for NATO to close the Baltic Sea to navigation if Moscow is found to be responsible.

Finland, Estonia and Latvia are members of NATO.

Reporting by Andrius Sittas, Editing by Terje Solsvik and Barbara Lewis

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Andrius covers politics and general news in the Baltic states – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, the three main states along NATO’s eastern flank, the staunchest supporters of Ukraine and Russia’s harshest critics in NATO and the EU. He has written stories on everything from China pressuring German companies to leave Lithuania, which supports Taiwan, to Iraqi migrants hiding in the woods on the Belarus border, to a farmer burning grain for heat during an energy crisis. Contact: +37068274006.

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