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British warship to patrol North Sea to protect pipelines over 'sabotage' fears
6 October 2022, 10:50
A British warship is patrolling the North Sea over fears that Russia is trying to "sabotage" the European energy infrastructure.
The Ministry of Defence said HMS Somerset - a Type 23 frigate of the Royal Navy - is working with the Norwegian Navy to "reassure" workers in the area.
The warship was sent to the North Sea earlier this week following the suspected sabotage of Nord Stream 1 and 2, which are part of the main gas pipeline responsible for energy security in Europe.
A navy source said there were concerns around oil rigs in the North Sea, where there are pipes that deliver oil and gas to Britain and Scandinavia.
The insider told The Times: "There are a number of uncertainties associated with that area and the infrastructure.
"The likelihood of anything happening is remote but people are concerned and what better system to have than a ship that has good radar and good sonar?"
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace met virtually with ministers from Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) partner nations to discuss attacks on the Nord Stream pipelines in the Baltic Sea, the Government said in a statement.
He said: "In this period of heightened concern for all like-minded partner nations, it is right that we act with speed, agility and collective resolve to actively demonstrate our shared commitment to mutual security."
JEF nations include Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, United Kingdom.
According to sources, HMS Somerset was sent to the North Sea to "reassure" British citizens and those from partner nations working on the oil rigs.
A Western official said Russia has previously attacked critical national infrastructure, including electrical infrastructure and dams, so the situation is currently being monitored.
He explained: "We're tracking that very closely. We're worrying about it."
It comes after a fourth leak was found on the pipelines last week, but Russia denied being responsible for any sabotage.
The European Union said it would bring a "robust response" to any intentional disruption of its energy infrastructure.
Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, urged countries to step up protection of critical sites by carrying out stress tests and deploying satellite surveillance.
She said: "The acts of sabotage against Nord Stream pipelines have shown how vulnerable our energy infrastructure is.
"It is in the interest of all Europeans to better protect this critical infrastructure."
However, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov denied any claims of sabotage by Russia, by saying: "It's quite predictable and also predictably stupid to give voice to these kinds of narratives – predictably stupid and absurd."