A mystery hangs over the apparent sabotage of two underwater gas pipelines: Did Russia do it?

BERLIN (AP) — Two days after a pair of explosions under the Baltic Sea apparently ruptured giant natural gas pipelines from Russia to Germany, consensus hardened Wednesday that it was an act of sabotage. The European Union and several European governments called it an attack and demanded an investigation.

Experts said it could take months to assess and repair the damage to the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines, which were already being used as leverage in the West’s confrontation with Moscow over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The news of a possible attack against them raised already intense fears of a painful power shortage in Europe during the winter.

But the central mystery remains: Who did it?

“All available information indicates that these leaks are the result of a deliberate act,” European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell Fontelles said in a statement on Wednesday. “We will support any investigation aimed at gaining full clarity on what happened and why.”

Jake Sullivan, national security adviser to President Biden, called the episode “apparent sabotage.”

But with little evidence to go on — US officials said explosive gas leaking from the ruptured pipes made it too dangerous to approach the breach — the United States and most of its European allies stopped short of publicly naming any suspects. Still, some officials speculated on the many ways Russia could win, even though the pipeline carries its gas.

Poland and Ukraine openly blamed Russia, which pointed the finger at the United States, and both Moscow and Washington issued indignant denials. Other theories discussed included speculation that Ukraine or the Baltic states, which have long opposed the pipeline, might have had an interest in seeing it disabled and sending a message.

“It’s hard to assess, does anyone benefit?” Finnish President Sauli Niinistö told news outlet Helsingin Sanomat. “That’s why this is a mystery until now.”

Some European and US officials warned Wednesday that it would be premature to conclude that Russia was behind the apparent attacks. President Vladimir V. Putin likes to show that he has his finger on the gas valve, they pointed out, but exercising that power could mean keeping the pipelines in good working order.

Many Western officials and analysts said the sabotage would fit neatly into Putin’s broader Russian strategy of waging war on multiple fronts, military and economic. The sabotage leads a nervous Europe to realize how vulnerable its infrastructure is.

“This is classic hybrid warfare,” said Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, head of the defense committee in Germany’s parliament, who stressed that for now she had no evidence Russia was behind the attack but believed it was to blame. more “plausible”.