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November 7, 2023

Russia Says Telecoms Cable Damaged Last month Just Before Nearby Baltic Gas Pipeline

Credit: Jesper/AdobeStock

Credit: Jesper/AdobeStock

A Russian fibre optic cable under the Baltic Sea was damaged last month only 28 km (17 miles) from where a gas pipeline linking Finland and Estonia was damaged soon afterwards, Russian state company Rostelecom said on Tuesday.

Finnish police believe damage to the Balticconnector gas pipeline was caused by a Chinese container ship dragging its anchor along the seabed but have not concluded whether this was an accident or a deliberate act.

Security of sub-sea cables and pipelines in the Baltic has become a top concern against the background of the Ukraine war, especially since the blowing-up of Russia's Nord Stream gas pipelines last year. Investigators have yet to establish who was responsible.

In a statement, Rostelecom did not comment on what had caused the "accident" to the fibre cable that links Russia's Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad to the rest of the country.

However, it noted the proximity of the incident to the damaged Balticconnector gas pipeline, in terms of both geography and timing.

"Damage to the Rostelecom company's fiber optic cable in the Baltic Sea was recorded on October 7, 2023 at 23:30 (Moscow time). The location of the cable damage is located 28 km from the section of the Baltic Connector gas pipeline damaged on October 8," it said.

Finnish police leading the pipeline investigation have named the Hong Kong-flagged container carrier NewNew Polar Bear as the prime suspect in damaging the gas pipeline. A large anchor was found nearby, and the investigators believe the pipe was broken as a ship dragged it across the sea bed.

Operator Gasgrid has said the pipeline could be out of commission until April or longer. China has said it is willing to provide the necessary information in accordance with international law.

Two other Baltic telecoms cables, connecting Estonia to Finland and Sweden, were also damaged on Oct. 7 and 8.

In its statement, Rostelecom said a specialised vessel had started repairs on the fibre optic cable on Nov. 5 and the work was expected to take 10 days, depending on weather conditions.

It said users had not been affected because data was transmitted via terrestrial routes and backup satellite channels.

(Reuters - Additional reporting by Anne Kauranen and Terje Solsvik/Editing by Gareth Jones)

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