The controversial Nord Stream 2 Russian gas pipeline project has already seen its fair share of drama, and now one former Kremlin official has claimed a submarine and a fishing trawler have tried to disrupt pipelaying operations in the Baltic Sea.
Andrey Minin, a director of a Nord Stream 2 regional subsidiary in north-west Russia, told Moscow news wire Interfax that Russian supporting vessels had fended off attacks on operations at the Gazprom-led project from an unidentified submarine and a Polish fishing trawler.
Minin claimed the goal of the alleged attacks was the Russian pipelay barge Fortuna that is currently laying a subsea segment of Nord Stream 2 to the south of Bornholm Island in Denmark's stretch of the sea area.
At the end of March, a submarine surfaced less than one nautical mile from the barge, and was presumably targeting Fortuna’s anchor lines that it has deployed during the pipelaying job, he claimed.
In February, the operator dispatched the supporting vessel Vladislav Strizhyov to intercept the Polish trawler SWI-106 that “was not answering to radio communication attempts”, he said.
The trawler aimed to hit directly at Fortuna, Minin claimed, but collided with the supporting vessel before the Polish captain established a radio contact to apologise for the accident.
Two other unknown fishing trawlers attempted to approach the Fortuna during the night of 30 March but turned away without answering radio calls when another supporting vessel, which was guarding the barge, started its engines to move towards them, he said.
A Polish naval ship has been recently seen manoeuvering near the Fortuna, while an antisubmarine aircraft performs regular fly-overs of the pipelaying site in the Baltic Sea, Minin said.
Minin previously worked in the administration of President Vladimir Putin before being appointed to head a foreign economic department in the Leningrad regional administration.
While Poland opposes Nord Stream 2, Minin's implication that the country could be training up fishermen to derail the project appears far-fetched.
According to maritime data, the Fortuna is 41,000 deadweight tonnes as against the 151 tonnes of the Polish fishing vessel SWI-106.
Minin’s account does, however, align with official Kremlin rhetoric that “Russia is surrounded by enemies”.
Enemies or not, the continuing Nord Stream 2 saga has shown that Russia is surrounded by gas-hungry markets.