Belgium (Brussels, Morning Newspaper) A group of Scandinavian public broadcasters, including DR (Denmark), NRK (Norway), SVT (Sweden), and Yle (Finland), have uncovered evidence that Russia is attempting to sabotage communication cables and offshore wind farms in the North Sea. The broadcasters allege that Russia maintains a fleet of ships disguised as fishing and research vessels, which are equipped with underwater cameras to map important underwater locations for potential sabotage.
In February, a Russian ship sailed without its legally-required AIS (Automatic Identification System) and entered both Belgian and Dutch waters in suspicious vicinity to submarine gas pipelines, data cables, and other critical infrastructure. The Dutch intelligence service alleged that Russia was “trying to map what the Dutch energy supply looks like.”
The investigative journalists focused their attention on a Russian ship called Admiral Vladimirsky, which is registered as a research vessel, but the investigation suggests that it is actually a spy ship. According to data tracking the ship’s movements, it approaches areas near wind farms and idles in the area.
The broadcasters intercepted Russian communications indicating the existence of other so-called “ghost ships” sailing in the North Sea. These ships turn off their locators to avoid detection. The Admiral Vladimirsky has not activated its transmitter for a month. One Danish intelligence officer believes that Russia is preparing acts of sabotage in the case of a full-scale war with the West. The head of Norway’s intelligence service stated that this covert operation is directly controlled by the Kremlin.
When journalists attempted to approach the suspect vessel, they were driven away by an armed Russian man wearing a balaclava. In a post on Twitter published by Russia’s embassy in the UK, authorities claimed that Russian ships were simply navigating in international maritime waters.
As of yet, there is no evidence yet that Russia has yet carried out any acts of sabotage. Western nations still blame Russia for destroying the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, but this is hotly contested. Deep sea cables have been identified as a potential security vulnerability for Europe due to a lack of protection and their critical importance for connectivity.
The investigation by the Scandinavian public broadcasters highlights the growing concern about Russian aggression and its potential impact on European infrastructure and security. Security experts warn that Russia may seek to target critical energy infrastructure in the even of open hostilities with the West.