The gas is now bubbling into the sea from four leaks. The Baltic Sea pipelines Nord Stream 1 and 2 from Russia to Germany are damaged and experts and politicians have long been talking about only one conceivable cause: sabotage.
“All available information indicates that these leaks are the result of a deliberate act,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on behalf of the 27 member states. A big question is now in the room: who sabotaged the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines?
While many experts point more or less clearly to Russia, numerous users on the net claim that the USA is responsible for the alleged sabotage.
Again and again, the presence of American naval units in the Baltic Sea is argued, including by politicians from the right-wing populist party AfD. Some of the claims have gone viral in recent days.
Claim: “Coincidences do exist…”, whispers a Telegram user sarcastically and reports on an “American helicopter with the call sign FFAB123”, which allegedly on September 2 “along the Nord Stream 2 route or even between the points , where the accident occurred” had flown.
The original post by the Russian think tank “Vatfor” with the claims about the US helicopter reached 1.7 million views and this narrative also spread on Twitter. Is a US helicopter actually responsible for the alleged sabotage?
DW Fact Check: Misleading.
It is still completely unclear who is behind the alleged sabotage of the pipelines. According to our knowledge, the mentioned helicopter flight is out of the question, mainly for geographical reasons: We first looked for the exact position of the gas leaks and found it at the Danish Maritime Authority.
The nautical information and warnings also include three of the four gas leaks discovered, including geo-coordinates. The fourth gas leak discovered by the Swedish Coast Guard has not yet been publicly pinpointed.
In a second step, we researched the flight route of the named flight FFAB123 using the Flightaware aviation software. On September 2nd, the flight tracker shows a flight path near Bornholm, which actually corresponds to the image from the social media posts.
FFAB123 flew in several loops over the Baltic Sea east of the island of Bornholm. If you now superimpose the geo-coordinates of the gas leaks and flight route on a map, however, a different picture emerges than that claimed in the social media posts.
FFAB123 did not fly along the pipeline and did not even come close to the locations of the gas leaks that have since occurred. In particular, the northern gas leaks are far from FFAB123’s flight path.
According to our measurements, the flight path of FFAB123 was nine or 30 kilometers away from the localized gas leaks.
Conclusion: The viral claim by a Russian think tank on Telegram that an American helicopter with the call sign FFAB123 was responsible for the gas leaks is untenable and misleading. The helicopter did not get close to the locations of the gas leaks.
It is still unclear who carried out the alleged sabotage on the Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines and how, sabotage from the air seems rather unlikely. The German frigate captain and expert for maritime security Göran Swistek rather believes in the attachment of special explosives by underwater vehicles.
“I know from my own research that Russia has built up a very strong research program in the underwater world in recent years,” Swistek said in the ZDF interview. Russia recently tested precisely such unmanned underwater drones in the North Sea and North Atlantic, among other places, near important communication cables.
Author: Joscha Weber
The original of this article “Helicopter flight no evidence of US sabotage of Nord Stream Pipeline” comes from Deutsche Welle.