Multiple acts of sabotage have taken place on key infrastructure
Over the last month, a wave of mysterious hybrid attacks have taken place across Europe. It is not clear whether these incidents are related, but the frequency with which they’ve occurred is notable. All have taken place since the Nord Stream pipeline attacks at the end of September, marking Russia out as a suspect — but there is almost no proof either way.
Below is a timeline of all the attacks and arrests that have taken place in the last month:
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🇳🇴 25th October 2022, Norway: Brazilian university researcher arrested in northern Norway
Norway’s intelligence services arrested a Brazilian university researcher on suspicion that he is actually a Russian and a spy. The researcher works at the Arctic University of Norway in Tromsø, and has connections with the Grey Zone, a group studying irregular warfare methods like cyber attacks and disinformation campaigns.
To date, four Russians have been arrested for flying drones near critical infrastructure in Norway over the last two weeks. Four others were released from custody after taking pictures near the country’s offshore oil and gas platforms, were released from custody on Friday.
🇫🇷 20th October 2022, France: Damaged fiber optic cables in Marseille
France suffered from widespread internet connectivity problems when at least three fiber optic cables were cut in Marseille, slowing internet access for users in Europe, Asia and the United States. Russian submarines have been blamed, but investigators have yet to find evidence to support this claim. “The people knew what they were doing,” Michel Combot, the managing director of the French Telecoms Federation, said.
Earlier this year, Paris police also investigated the suspected sabotage of fiber optic cables, which disrupted the internet in several regions around France. In ‘an unusual move’, France’s internal intelligence service helped in the investigation, along with the judicial police.
🇬🇧 18th October 2022, UK: Severed undersea cables near Shetland Islands
The Shetland Islands were effectively cut off from the world after two breaks in a submarine cable were discovered. The SHEFA-2 undersea cable linking the Faroe Islands to mainland Scotland via the Shetland and Orkney Islands was damaged in two separate incidents rendering most of the islands without internet connection. Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon insisted that the damage was accidental, even though the probability of two separate incidents occurring at the same time is extremely low. “We expect it will be fishing vessels that damaged the cable but it is very rare that we have two problems at the same time,” Páll Vesturbú, the head of infrastructure for Faroese Telecom stated.
🇩🇪 8th October 2022, Germany: Rail traffic in northern Germany disrupted by ‘sabotage’
‘Cable sabotage’ caused major disruption to the German railway network. German Transport Minister Volker Wissing said essential cables “were deliberately and intentionally severed” in two places. “It is clear that this was a targeted and deliberate action,” he added, saying the motive was not “yet known”.
🇩🇰 6th October 2022, Denmark: drones reported near North Sea gas fields
Danish police announced that there were sightings of unauthorised drone flights near gas fields in the North Sea, following similar incidents on the Norwegian side. This is the second time in a week that such incidents have occurred.
Several European countries have responded to these attacks by boosting their defence capabilities. In Scandinavia, Norway is deploying its military to protect oil and gas installations, while Finland’s border guard upped its monitoring of maritime traffic and infrastructure. Denmark also moved to boost protections around energy sites. France, meanwhile, is tightening security over its undersea cables due to fears of an imminent Russia attack. This includes a €3.1 million package for an “ocean floor” defence, which is currently being debated in Parliament.
Early this year, British chief of defence staff Admiral Sir Tony Radakin warned about an increase in Russia’s underwater activity, saying that “Russia has grown the capability to put at threat those undersea cables and potentially exploit those undersea cables.” Although European leaders have avoided accusing Russia over these incidents, NATO issued a warning earlier this month that it would respond to an attack on allies’ key infrastructure.