What we know about pipeline breaks in Europe.

Earlier this week, three separate leaks were discovered in two giant gas pipelines in Russia. Pipelines filled with fuel, and ruptures produced gas bubbles half a mile wide that rose to the surface of the Baltic Sea near the Danish island of Bornholm.

Explosions had been detected nearby just before the leaks occurred, and European governments have yet to identify the cause of the pipeline leaks, known as Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2. Political leaders in Europe and the United States have suggested that the episode was an act of sabotage.

Speculation has pointed to Russia, whose state-controlled energy company Gazprom is the main owner of the pipelines. A spokesman for President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, Dmitri S. Peskov, dismissed the accusations of Russian involvement as “stupid” and pointed the finger at the United States.

The situation bears the hallmarks of a spy thriller. But analysts say damaging the pipelines could be a significant escalation in the indirect energy war that has been waged since the fighting in Ukraine began, a battle that could have dire consequences for millions of homes and businesses across Europe. Indeed, whoever damaged the pipelines may have intended to show Europeans that “nowhere is safe,” said Helima Croft, head of commodity strategy at RBC Capital Markets. Here are some of the highlights that international experts are considering as they try to identify the culprit:

  • The damaged pipelines are critical links between Russia and Western Europe.

  • The leaks may help Russia by driving up energy prices.

  • The environmental impact seems alarming.

  • Damage targets explosive devices.

  • Other pipelines to Europe may be vulnerable.

  • Russia has attacked Ukraine’s energy infrastructure during the war.