By Timothy Gardner and Simon Lewis
(Reuters) – The Russian ambassador to the United Nations on Friday told the Security Council that the U.S. has much to gain in gas trade from damage to the Nord Stream pipeline system under the Baltic Sea but stopped short of blaming Washington for this week’s explosions.
A council meeting convened at Russia’s request addressed leaks discovered on Tuesday on the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines on which Russian-controlled Gazprom and its European partners spent billions of dollars.
A main question about the blasts was whether the United States could gain from the destruction of the pipelines, ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said. “The answer is undoubtedly.”
“American liquefied natural gas suppliers should be celebrating the manifold increase in LNG supplies to Europe,” Nebenzia said.
Earlier on Friday Russian President Vladimir Putin said the United States and its allies blew up Nord Stream. “The sanctions were not enough for the Anglo-Saxons: they moved onto sabotage,” he said. The United States and other countries have imposed several rounds of sanctions against Russia since Putin sent his forces to invade Ukraine in late February.
The White House has dismissed the accusation it was responsible.
“Let me be clear, the United States categorically denies any involvement in this incident and we reject an assertion saying the contrary,” Richard Mills, the U.S. deputy representative to the United Nations, said at the meeting.
Mills added that the United States has boosted LNG exports in recent years because Russia has long not been a reliable supplier of energy to Europe. Russia has in years past cut off gas supplies to Eastern Europe in winter during gas pricing disputes.
Russia, which slashed gas deliveries to Europe in response to the sanctions, has also said sabotage was a possibility and said accusations by some that it perpetrated the damage were “stupid”.
The leaks have raised concerns about the safety of other energy systems in Europe and investigations about who was to blame.
U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Friday discussed protection of critical infrastructure “in the wake of the apparent sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines in the Baltic Sea,” the White House said.
Analysts say it is possible the damage was inflicted by devices that are available on the commercial market but that given the scale and precision, it was more likely carried out by an actor with access to more sophisticated technology.
The magnitude of the explosions probably corresponded to an explosive load of several hundred kilos, the permanent missions to the U.N. of Denmark and Sweden said in a letter dated Thursday to the French U.N. Mission, which holds the presidency of the 15-member council for September.
The ruptures also represent a risk to the climate. The pipeline leaks may mark the biggest single release of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, recorded, the UN Environment Programme said.
Sergei Kupriyanov, a Gazprom spokesperson, told the council meeting that 800 million cubic meters of natural gas had escaped. The volume of escaped gas was equivalent to three months’ supply for Denmark, he said.
The Nord Stream 1 pipeline, once the main route for Russian gas to Germany, was already shut but cannot now be easily reopened. The new Nord Stream 2 pipeline had yet to enter commercial operations.
(Reporting by Timothy Gardner and Simon Lewis; editing by Grant McCool)