Russia is preparing to sabotage the Nordics’ critical offshore infrastructure

April 19,2023 675
Russia is preparing to sabotage the Nordics’ critical offshore infrastructure

Russian spy ships are preparing possible sabotage against offshore infrastructure facilities in the Nordics, the Danish Broadcasting Corporation (DR) reported on Wednesday.

According to intelligence services and experts, a Russian military program is mapping offshore wind farms, gas pipelines and power and internet cables in the waters around Denmark, Norway, Finland and Sweden.

The mapping is done by many military and civilian ships sailing around the Nordic waters and uncovering what lies at the bottom of the sea and how the countries’ infrastructure is connected.

According to the sources, the aim is to plan sabotage against the Nordic countries, including the ability to cut power and data cables across the Atlantic and to the rest of Europe.

This is revealed by the new documentary series “The Shadow War,” which DR has made in collaboration with Norway’s NRK, Sweden’s SVT and Finland’s Yle broadcasters. (The documentary is accessible only from Nordic countries.)

“In the event of a conflict with the West, they [the Russians] are ready and know where to intervene if they want to paralyze Danish society,” says counterintelligence chief Anders Henriksen from the Danish Police Intelligence Service.

In uncovering Russia’s operations, DR, NRK, SVT and Yle have come into possession of intercepted radio communications from the Russian navy.

The communication reveals that there are Russian “ghost ships” sailing in the Nordic waters. Ships that have turned off their AIS transmitters and thus do not share their locations.

An example is the Russian naval vessel called Admiral Vladimirsky.

Officially, the vessel does marine research, but according to DR’s sources, it is also used for intelligence work.

Last November, the 147.8-meter-long ship sailed around the Kattegat, a sea area between Denmark’s Jutlandic peninsula and Sweeden, without sharing its location with the outside world. But the vessel continuously sent radio messages to a naval base in Russia, which included information on its positions.

Based on the intercepted radio communication, DR was able to locate the Russian naval ship north of Sjællands Odde, a 15-kilometer-long peninsula protruding into the Kattegat northwest of Copenhagen.

A journalist and a photographer from DR sailed out and found the large vessel in the waters between Sjællands Odde and Grenaa, a seaport on the east coast of the Jutlandic peninsula.

As DR approached in a fast-sailing rubber boat, several men with covered faces stepped forward on the deck, including a uniformed man wearing a bulletproof vest and armed with a Russian submachine gun.

Based on the intercepted radio communications, the Admiral Vladimirsky sailed around the Baltic Sea, the Great Belt, the Kattegat and the North Sea for a month.

The ship’s route passed both current and future offshore wind farms, where it stayed for several days.

Intelligence sources and experts estimate that the vessel’s mission was to prepare sabotage so that Russia could paralyze, among other things, the power supply in North-West Europe.

“This is what the research ships do – as part of the preparation for a major war with NATO,” says a source in a Western intelligence service.

More specifically, according to independent naval analyst H I Sutton, the Russian naval vessel has probably mapped power cables on the seabed at the offshore wind farms.

“There will be clusters of cables where one bomb can knock out the entire wind farm,” Sutton said.

Read the whole story on the DR website.

On 13 April this year, Norway expelled 15 Russian officials, accusing them of spying. It was the latest in a wave of expulsions across Europe since the February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, according to BBC.

The BBC understands that U.K. officials are aware of Russian intent to conduct what is known as undersea mapping, including using boats that move around in UK waters.

If there are specific threats against the U.K., these would be investigated, but sources declined to say what activity might have been looked at so far.

Photo: The Admiral Vladimirsky belongs to the Russian Navy and is officially a marine research vessel. © Morten Krüger, DR