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Navy officer looking through binoculars out to into the Baltic

RIGA, Latvia (Aug. 9, 2023) Logistics Specialist 3rd Class Raymond Akintunde, from La Marque, Texas, looks for surface vessels from the bridge of the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Roosevelt as the ship departs Riga, Latvia, Aug. 9, 2023. Roosevelt is on a scheduled deployment in the U.S. Naval Forces Europe area of operations, employed by the U.S. Sixth Fleet to defend U.S allied and partner interests. (U.S. Navy photo by Elexia Morelos)

Latvia Asks If NATO Halt Russian Baltic Shipping

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October 20, 2023

By Aaron Eglitis (Bloomberg) NATO should consider a halt to Russian shipping in the Baltic Sea if evidence emerges that the Kremlin is behind the damage to a pipeline connecting Finland and Estonia, Latvia’s president said. 

“The discussion should be about how we can close the Baltic Sea in order to protect our critical infrastructure” if Russia is found to be responsible, President Edgars Rinkevics told Latvia’s public broadcaster late Thursday. His office later clarified that the comments pertained to Russian shipping. 

President Vladimir Putin has denied that the Kremlin was involved in the pipeline rupture to the Balticconnector gas pipeline, which was discovered earlier this month. North Atlantic Treaty Organization this week dispatched mine hunters, patrol aircraft and early warning planes to the Baltic Sea to safeguard underwater infrastructure. 

Bloomberg map of the baltic NATO nations
Map of the baltic NATO nations via Bloomberg

Also read: Baltic Sea Pipeline: Finland Questions China & Russia

NATO has the ability to stop shipping in the Baltic, Rinkevics said. While it was unclear how such an embargo would be imposed, disrupting Baltic trade would potentially impact Russian trade to St. Petersburg, the country’s second-largest city and a major conduit for a raft of key industries. 

Finnish investigators said last week the link in the Gulf of Finland was most likely ruptured by a deliberate act of force rather than an explosion. Finnish President Sauli Niinisto has said an “external party” was involved in the breach of the gas pipeline and two data cables, which were all damaged in different locations. 

Finnish authorities completed a crime scene investigation at the damaged subsea gas pipeline, which began leaking Oct. 8. Samples collected from the seabed around the broken segment will undergo forensic analysis, the National Bureau of Investigation said in a statement. 

The process “required several dives to the damaged object at a depth of dozens of meters,” according to the police. The plan is also to examine a wide swathe of the surrounding area.

By Aaron Eglitis © 2023 Bloomberg L.P.

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