Estonia has officially reached out to Chinese authorities as part of an ongoing investigation into the damage of two underwater telecommunication cables in the Baltic Sea. The cables, which connect Sweden and Estonia, were damaged on October 8, prompting a multi-national probe into the incident.
According to Finnish investigators, the damage was a result of deliberate sabotage affecting not only the telecommunication cables but also the Balticconnector gas pipeline. The pipeline and cables connect Finland and Estonia, as well as Estonia and Sweden. Data from MarineTraffic, a ship tracking and maritime analytics company, revealed that two vessels were present at all three locations at the time of the damage. These vessels were the NewNew Polar Bear, sailing under the Hong Kong flag, and the Sevmorput, under the Russian flag.
While Helsinki is focusing on the pipeline’s damage, Tallinn, Estonia’s capital, is investigating the cable damage. Last week, Estonian investigators stated they were examining the role of these two vessels in the incident, questioning whether the damage was intentional or the result of negligence.
“Estonia is in contact with Chinese authorities to encourage cooperation in the investigation,” said a spokesperson for the Estonian Foreign Ministry. Interestingly, no request has been sent to Russia regarding the matter. On the same note, China has called for an “objective, fair, and professional” investigation into the pipeline damage.
The Estonian government last week mentioned that “human interference” was likely behind the damage. They are currently scrutinizing the role of the two aforementioned vessels, which were present at the impacted sites during the time of the incident. China is reportedly cooperating with the investigation. A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson stated that their vessel was operating normally in the relevant waters at the time of the incident, dismissing any abnormalities due to poor sea conditions.
According to Reuters, an Estonian government spokesperson indicated that contacting Russia seems unnecessary at this point. This comes as Finnish officials speculate that the damage to the telecom cables and the gas pipeline might be interconnected and that the involvement of a “state actor” cannot be ruled out.
The incident has raised several questions about maritime safety, international cooperation in crisis situations, and the potential involvement of state actors in what appears to be a sabotage operation. As the investigation continues, the international community watches closely, awaiting conclusive evidence that could either defuse or escalate geopolitical tensions in the Baltic region.