NATO countries suspect that Russia may have mined the EU’s critical underwater infrastructure in the North Sea based on data from companies that manage key oil and gas pipelines, and electricity and telecommunications cables, The Times reports.

Putin’s espionage has now reached to the bed of Europe’s seas as both oceanographic research vessels and fishing boats are tasked with mapping, or even perhaps placing explosives on, a vital network of cables and pipelines, The Times reported.

“No sabotage has yet been established on Dutch or Belgian cables, but explosives were found on a British cable at the beginning of the Ukraine crisis,” said De Spiegelaere, a representative of the Belgian maritime security unit.

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Protecting critical underwater infrastructure has become one of the main focuses of NATO and Europe’s landlocked countries after the sabotage of the Nord Stream gas pipelines in the fall of 2022.

“We never thought that these pipes and cables could be sabotaged. We have been more attentive to that,” said De Spiegelaere.

The Belgian newspaper De Tijd analyzed maritime logs and published an investigation showing that more than 160 Russian civilian ships have made 945 suspicious maneuvers over the past ten years, 749 of which were recorded within a kilometer of pipelines in the North Sea.

In addition, another 72 suspicious actions took place around power cables, and the remaining 124 around telecommunications cables in what is believed to be a large-scale mapping operation.

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Russian ships are already suspicious, even if they maintain a very normal sailing pattern. Because every Russian ship, even if it works for a private company, works for the government anyway,” De Spiegelere said, adding that, “Abnormal sailing patterns are not necessarily suspicious. But it is suspicious if this happens above pipelines and cables.”

According to the publication, since the beginning of the year, the Russian trawler Kapitan Sokolov and four other ships have been behaving unusually when passing over key pipelines and cables in the North Sea. The ships have slowed down as they passed over the underwater infrastructure. It is suspected this has been done for reconnaissance and possible sabotage purposes.

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