UPDATED: Moscow calls for ‘objective’ investigation into Nord Stream damage

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MOSCOW, Sept 29 (Reuters) – Russia called on Thursday for an international investigation into ruptures of the Nord Stream gas pipelines under the Baltic Sea to be “objective”, amid an escalating war of words between Moscow and the West over responsibility for the still-unexplained damage.

In a press briefing, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova also said the United States would have to “explain itself”, referring to comments President Joe Biden made in February when he said “there will no longer be a Nord Stream 2” if Russia sent troops into Ukraine.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday that a deliberate attack against allies’ infrastructure would be met with a determined response, following what it called acts of “sabotage” on the Nord Stream pipelines.

“All currently available information indicates that this is the result of deliberate, reckless, and irresponsible acts of sabotage,” NATO said in a statement.

“We, as Allies, have committed to prepare for, deter and defend against the coercive use of energy and other hybrid tactics by state and non-state actors. Any deliberate attack against Allies’ critical infrastructure would be met with a united and determined response,” it said.

Russia’s foreign ministry on Thursday said ruptures to the Nord Stream pipelines that have caused gas leaks off the coasts of Denmark and Sweden occurred in territory that is “fully under the control” of U.S. intelligence agencies.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told a pro-Kremlin broadcast that Washington had “full control” over the waters around Denmark and Sweden where four leaks have been detected on the Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 pipelines, which cross the floor of the Baltic Sea between Russia and Germany.

“It happened in the trade and economic zones of Denmark and Sweden. There are NATO-centric countries,” Zakharova said an interview with the Soloviev Live online broadcast on Thursday.

“They are countries that are completed controlled by the U.S. intelligence services.”

Denmark is a member of the NATO military alliance, while Sweden’s membership is pending after it abandoned its historic policy of non-alignment following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Zakharova did not provide evidence of U.S. control over Sweden and Denmark. Russia frequently rails against American influence and military support for Europe.

The European Union suspects sabotage was behind the gas leaks on the subsea Russian pipelines to Europe and has promised a “robust” response to any intentional disruption of its energy infrastructure.

While neither pipeline was in use at the time of the suspected blasts, they were filled with gas that has been spewing out in the Baltic Sea since ruptures were first detected on Monday.

(Reporting by Reuters; Editing by David Goodman and Jan Harvey)

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