25th Sep 2023

UN meeting urges Russia to respect EU probes on Nord Stream blast

  • Russian ambassador Vasily Nebenzya at Tuesday's UNSC meeting (Photo: UN Photo/Loey Felipe)
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Russia's latest attack on EU national-level probes into last year's Nord Stream 2 blast fell on largely deaf ears at the UN Security Council (UNSC) on Tuesday (11 July).

Ambassadors from non-aligned members Ecuador, Ghana, Mozambique, Switzerland, and the UAE voiced confidence in ongoing investigations by Danish, German, and Swedish authorities.

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  • Most neutral and all Western-aligned countries backed EU national-level probes (Photo: UN Photo/Loey Felipe)

"We await their swift conclusion, the transparent communication of their findings," said the UAE's envoy, Mohamed Issa Abushahab.

Brazil and China had previously backed calls by Russia for a UN-level probe instead, but Brazil, on Tuesday, declared its "trust in their [EU countries'] objectivity".

China's ambassador, Geng Shuang, said: "Any objective and impartial investigation requires communication and cooperation with Russia".

He also warned that the longer the EU sleuths took, "the less credible the results of the investigations will be".

But Geng didn't repeat China's earlier call for a UN-level probe and also urged "all parties not to politicise investigations".

Russia's Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to Germany was blown up on 26 September last year, prompting a whirlwind of speculation on who did it and why.

The explosion made it hard for Russia to use gas supplies to manipulate Germany, indicating a pro-Ukrainian culprit.

But if it was a false-flag Russian operation, then it also spooked the West on the vulnerability of its undersea infrastructure and has the potential to poison German-US and German-Ukraine relations.

Denmark, Germany, and Sweden have been investigating the "unprecedented" incident, which took place in Danish and Swedish maritime zones, for 10 months, but it's still "not possible to say when" they'll have results, they said in a joint letter to the UNSC on Monday.

The three separate European probes involved a mix of national prosecutors, intelligence services, and army experts and were being "conducted in line with fundamental principles of the rule of law, including independence from political interference," they said.

They've examined water and soil samples and "metal fragments" found at the site, as well as doing "investigative simulations" of explosions, they added.

In one lead, Germany found "traces of subsea explosives" on a private yacht which may have been used in the sabotage and "explosive residue on several of the foreign objects that have been found" 70 metres down on the seabed.

But it was still "not possible to reliably establish the identity of the perpetrators and their motives, particularly regarding the question of whether the incident was steered by a state or state actor," Germany said.

Tuesday's UNSC meeting was called by Russia, which initially claimed the UK had blown up the pipe, then said the US and Norway did it, but without putting forward hard evidence for either accusation.

Russia has also complained about EU secretiveness, even though the Danish-German-Swedish letter underlined that there were "no obstacles to visiting the sites" of the blasts by any Russian investigators and that the Russian firm which owns the pipeline had already done so.

But Russia's UN ambassador, Vasily Nebenzya, said the letter was merely "a formal reply and cannot substitute for a full-fledged briefing for the [UNSC] Council members where we can ask questions."

"Judging by our closed-door discussions, UN Security Council members are growing discontent over the lack of any information about the investigations," he added.

Russia also invited two friendly US journalists (Jeffrey Brodsky and Bryce Greene) to testify in Tuesday's briefing, who repeated Russia's lines — that Western countries cannot be trusted and that it was "not logical" for Russia to blow up its own pipe.

Déjà vu

But all that felt like déjà vu for some, after Russia also relied on a US academic (Jeffrey Sachs) and journalist (Seymour Hersh) to back its arguments in a similar UNSC briefing in February.

For their part, France, the UK, and the US said Russia's harping on about Nord Stream 2 at the UN was meant to distract world attention from its war crimes in Ukraine.

"We do not believe it is good use of our time for the Security Council to start to prejudge the outcome of these investigations, dictate how they are conducted, or otherwise undermine them," said Britain's UN ambassador, James Kariuki, on Tuesday.

"We must note Russia's inconsistent attitude towards civilian infrastructure. They claim outrage here, but are pursuing a systematic campaign to target civilian infrastructure in their war of aggression against Ukraine, killing thousands of civilians in the process. Such hypocrisy should not surprise us, but it makes it hard to take anything the Russians say on this subject at face value," he added.

The US envoy, Jeffery Delaurentis, said Russia's concerns about the EU probes "ring as hollow as its assertions that it had no relation with the [Russian mecernary] Wagner Group and had no plans to invade Ukraine".

Western-aligned UNSC members Albania, Japan, Malta, and Slovenia said the same.

"We are confident that these [EU] investigations will be conducted in a fair manner," Japanese ambassador Shino Mitsuko said.

Russia's "insinuations do not move us any closer to the truth, and only serve to sow unfounded suspicions and distrust among states," Malta's Darren Camilleri added.

Underwater explosions were detected near Nord Stream leaks

Measuring stations connected to the Swedish National Seismic Network (SNSN) detected powerful underwater explosions close to the leaks in the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines. Poland has already declared it "sabotage".

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