EXCLUSIVE US Navy aircraft flew over the Baltic hours after Nord Stream burst

  • Tracking data shows plane flew near Nord Stream site 2 hours after first damage
  • The US Navy confirmed it was an American aircraft
  • Said the theft was routine

OSLO/PARIS/WASHINGTON, Oct 7 (Reuters) – A U.S. Navy reconnaissance plane flew near the site of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline rupture in the Baltic Sea hours after the first damage appeared, according to a tracking reviewed by Reuters, Washington said. was routine.

Russia’s Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines burst on September 26, draining gas into the Baltic Sea off Denmark and Sweden. Seismologists have recorded explosions in the area and police from several countries have launched investigations.

Flight data showed a P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft was over the North Sea at 0003 GMT when Swedish seismologists recorded what they later described as an explosion underwater southeast of the island of Bornholm in the Baltic Sea.

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The plane, which had flown from Iceland, made a smooth circuit shaped like a racetrack over Poland before heading away towards the Baltic Gas Pipeline area, the data showed.

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The identity of the aircraft could not be immediately established due to the type of rotating identification code sometimes used by these aircraft, but the US Navy confirmed it was an American aircraft when she received data from Reuters.

“The US Navy P-8A Poseidon aircraft shown in tracking data conducted a routine maritime reconnaissance flight in the Baltic Sea, unrelated to the Nord Stream pipeline leaks,” a spokesperson for the company said. the US Navy.

When asked if any of the intelligence gathered could help investigators investigate pipeline ruptures, U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa spokesperson Captain Tamara Lawrence said: “We have no additional information to provide at this time.”

It’s unclear what role, if any, the US military is playing in helping European investigations into pipeline ruptures, although President Joe Biden has spoken of possibly sending divers.

‘CHESS’

According to the data, several minutes after 01:00 GMT, the plane flew south of Bornholm towards northwestern Poland, where it hovered for about an hour above land before flying around 02:44 GMT towards the area where the gas leak was reported.

It approached about 24 km (15 miles) from the site of the reported leak, circled and flew to the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, a frequent surveillance center, analysts said.

The Polish, Swedish, Danish and German defense ministries were not immediately available for comment.

Flight data between 03:39 GMT and 06:20 GMT is missing, but on the way back, around 07:00 GMT, the plane flew about 4 km north of the reported leak site.

Reuters used a partial flight map from US-based tracking website Radarbox, supplemented with data provided to Reuters by Sweden-based Flightradar24, to reconstruct the P-8’s trajectory.

Data from Flightradar24 showed the plane taking off and landing on the Reykjanes Peninsula in southwestern Iceland, where Keflavik Air Base is located as well as the reported P-8 hangar facilities.

The data emerged as the Baltic remains a Cold War-style front of tensions following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, analysts say who warn it is impossible to establish with certainty the reason behind specific military flight paths.

“The Baltic is a very active confrontational sphere with lots of polls and an endless game of chess,” said UK-based defense analyst Francis Tusa.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Thursday that the pipeline burst was “most likely” the work of Russian special services, citing reports from Western allies.

Western governments and officials have so far avoided pointing fingers directly at Moscow, while Russia has dismissed any claims of responsibility as “stupid”, instead blaming the United States and its allies.

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Additional reporting by Gwladys Fouche in Oslo, Marek Strzelecki in Warsaw, editing by Terje Solsvik and Emelia Sithole-Matarise

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