Crucial undersea cables sabotaged as military and coast guard on standby

An undersea telecommunications cable in the Baltic Sea running from Sweden to Estonia crucial for data traffic has been sustained significant damage, Stockholm has confirmed.

Authorities believe the cable was harmed at the same time as an undersea gas pipeline and another telecoms cable running from Finland, also to Estonia, with Helsinki launching an investigation into possible sabotage.

Carl-Oskar Bohlin, Sweden’s Civil Defence Minister yesterday said: “It is not a total cable break. There is a partial damage on this cable.

“We cannot assess what caused the damage.”

Estonia’s economy ministry said the disruption to the Swedish-owned cable was on Estonian territory, roughly 50 kilometres (30 miles) off the island of Hiiumaa in northern Estonia, the Baltic News Service reported. Service was restored within a few days, the agency said.

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Swedish Defence Minister Pal Jonson said that his country’s police, military and coast guard were in contact with their Estonian counterparts regarding the matter. He said there also was heightened vigilance in the Baltic Sea.

“We see the issue of security for our critical infrastructure as a high priority, and take the current situation seriously,” Pål Jonson said at a news conference. He didn’t suggest who or what may have caused the damage.

Finnish and Estonian gas system operators on October 8 said they noted an unusual drop in pressure in the Balticconnector pipeline after which they shut down the gas flow.

The Finnish government on October 10 said there was damage both to the gas pipeline and to a telecommunications cable between the two NATO countries.

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Later yesterday, Estonian Defence Minister Hanno Pevkur said that the exact reason for the failure of the cable between Sweden and Estonia still needed to be clarified.

He told reporters: “The scale of this failure was quite small and, as the operators also said, the failure was corrected.”

On Friday, Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson spoke of a ”spaghetti of cables, wires” on the Baltic seabed which “is absolutely fundamental for data traffic.”

He explained: “We live in a time where civilian infrastructure is also very threatened in this security environment.

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“It is also a very clear lesson from Ukraine, ie attacking infrastructure that is for energy supply, food supply, water supply.”

The incidents come just over a year after the Nord Stream gas pipelines running between Germany and Russia in the Baltic Sea were damaged by explosions believed to be sabotage. The case remains unsolved.

A total of four leaks were discovered on Nord Stream 1 and 2 on September 26 and 27, 2022, respectively. Two of the leaks were in the Swedish economic zone northeast of the Danish island of Bornholm, and two in the Danish economic zone southeast of Bornholm, and were outside national waters.

Both Swedish and Danish seismic measurements showed that explosions took place a few hours before the leaks were discovered.

The blasts were deemed an act of sabotage by Sweden and Denmark.

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