A retired British agent, identified as “James” in the article, is said to have “Mirror‘ discovered evidence of Russian activity near the Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 pipelines in the Baltic Sea before they were damaged by underwater explosions last year. For years, James, who is said to have worked for British intelligence, monitored the activities of the Russian Baltic Fleet and followed the radio traffic of Russian ships.
Near Nord Stream 1 and 2: Unusual activity of two Russian ships
In June 2022, according to “Spiegel”, he registered unusual activities by two Russian ships east of the Danish island of Bornholm, very close to the later crime scenes. The ships would have switched off their automatic identification system (AIS) – they are thus referred to as “dark ships”. At least one of the ships observed, the “Sibiryakov”, is equipped as a hydrographic research ship for underwater operations and has often accompanied Russian submarines on test drives in the Baltic Sea. It was the first time James spotted the special ship in this part of the Baltic Sea.
James gave his data to a Scandinavian team of reporters, who shared it with Spiegel, ZDF, Standard and Tamedia. In addition to the conspicuous movements of the Dark Ships, the recordings also show a significant expansion of suspected Russian espionage activities in the Baltic Sea. Accordingly, the Russians have increasingly targeted potential strategic targets such as offshore wind farms and important Internet submarine cables – presumably in order to be able to attack sensitive infrastructure in the event of an escalation of the conflict with the West.
Satellite images and further research confirm James’ information
According to “Spiegel”, James’ information was confirmed in essential points by satellite images and further research. Well-known experts considered the finds to be authentic. The Russian government did not answer a question from “Spiegel” about the observed movements of Russian ships near the crime scenes. According to James, several scenarios are conceivable, including the concrete preparation of an attack, a general reconnaissance mission, or a test of how Denmark and Sweden would react to the Russian presence off Bornholm.
The new data from James would also fit research by the news portal “T-Online”, which reported in March that a few days before the explosions in September, other Russian ships with underwater equipment were operating in the vicinity of the explosion sites. The hottest lead in the case of the Nord Stream sabotage is still a ship chartered in Germany, on which experts from the Federal Criminal Police Office found explosive residues in January, like those used in the pipeline sabotage.
False flag operation conceivable
The investigations revealed that a pro-Ukrainian group rented the ship in early September by presenting a forged Bulgarian passport. “ARD” and “Zeit” first reported that “Spiegel” identified the ship as the sailing yacht “Andromeda”. Russians, Ukrainians, or previously unknown actors could be responsible for the attacks.
In the case of “Andromeda”, some observers also consider a false flag operation to be conceivable, in which the Russians deliberately lay the wrong track. Other intelligence experts, on the other hand, consider the false flag hypothesis unlikely, as it is hard to imagine that Russian agents could carry out such a complex deception error-free. Nevertheless, one does not want to completely rule out any of the variants.
Despite the investigation, Moscow’s operations on and over the Baltic Sea would continue unabated. Just a week ago, the German Air Force intercepted three Russian military aircraft that had switched off their transponders and were not sending any position data.