1 Apr 2021 17:33

Polish fishermen, military vessels trying to hinder Nord Stream 2 construction - project operator

MOSCOW. April 1 (Interfax) - The Nord Stream 2 construction fleet is subject to regular provocations on the part of foreign civilian as well as military vessels that pose a direct threat to the safety of the project's vessels, Andrei Minin, branch director of project operator Nord Stream 2 AG, told Interfax.

"We are talking about clearly planned and prepared provocations using fishing boats as well as warships, submarines, and aircraft to hinder the implementation of the economic project. This is perhaps an unprecedented case of its kind in history," Minin said.

He said that on March 28, an unidentified submarine rose to the surface in the Fortuna pipe-laying vessel's buffer zone at a distance of less than one mile. "Given that Fortuna's anchor lines are situated at a distance of more than one mile, the actions of the submarine could have disabled the pipe-laying barge's whole anchor positioning system and damaged to the pipeline," Minin said.

On March 29, a Polish military vessel (tactical number 823) was carrying out maneuvers around the Fortuna. The Spasatel Karev support vessel had to follow a parallel course, escorting the warship.

Low-altitude flights by foreign aircraft over the pipe-laying vessels increased in number in the second half of March. The Polish anti-submarine aircraft PZL-Mielec M-28B1 Rbi regularly flies over the work zone at low altitude and near the pipe-laying vessel.

Minin said there had been more dangerous incidents. On February 22, while pipes were being laid south of the Danish island of Bornholm, the Polish fishing vessel SWI-106 entered the buffer zone from the south. "Repeated attempts to establish radio contact with it failed. In this situation, the Vladislav Strizhev supply vessel had to push back as a result of which the SWI-106 rammed into the Vladislav Strizhev. Following the collision, the fishing vessel's captain made contact and acknowledged he had been to blame for the incident - an audio recording is available. The Fortuna would have been hit if it had not been for the supply vessel's decisive actions. A maritime protest over the incident was filed via the Russian consulate in Germany," Minin said.

At night on March 30, the Spasatel Karev's radar detected two objects in the barge's immediate vicinity. One of them was moving towards the Fortuna and did not respond to radio calls. It was decided to start moving on an intersecting course towards the object. The ship's searchlights were used to attract attention. It turned out to be a fishing vessel that changed course and was moving south without making radio contact. The second object, which was waiting southwest of the Fortuna, also departed without answering radio calls.

"The actions of the military vessels and aircraft, as well as civilian vessels of foreign states, violating the buffer zone of an international construction project, not responding to requests and approaching at a dangerous distance from a pipe-laying barge are irresponsible and unacceptable. They pose a real danger of accidents with unpredictable consequences," Minin said.

Poland has consistently opposed Nord Stream. Its antimonopoly regulator UOKiK has imposed a fine of $7.8 billion on the project participants; and Poland has been blocking Gazprom's full access to OPAL, the first Nord Stream pipeline's onshore branch.