November 27, 2022

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DW Checks: Helicopter Flight Not Evidence of US Sabotage of Nord Stream Pipeline | Europe | T.W.

After four leaks, the gas is now bubbling into the ocean. Nord Stream 1 and 2, the Baltic Sea gas pipelines from Russia to Germany, were damaged. Pundits and politicians have long talked about only one possible cause: sabotage. “All available information indicates that these leaks are the result of a deliberate act,” said Joseph Borrell, the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs, speaking on behalf of the 27 member states. Now a big question arises: Who sabotaged the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines?

While many experts point the finger clearly at Russia, many internet users say the US is responsible for the alleged sabotage. The presence of US naval units in the Baltic Sea has been argued on several occasions, including by politicians from the far-right populist German party AfD. Some of these claims have gone viral in recent days.


“There are coincidences…” one Telegram user sarcastically muttered, adding that an “American helicopter coded FFAB123” flew “through Nord Stream 2 or even between the crash sites” on September 2. Original post the thinker Russian WhatsApp hit 1.7 million views with claims about an American helicopter, which also went viral on Twitter. Was the American helicopter really responsible for the sabotage?

DW verifies: misleading

It is still not clear who is behind the alleged vandalism of the gas pipelines. However, according to our results, helicopter flight is out of the question, mainly for geographical reasons. First, we looked for the exact location of the gas leaks, which we found at the Danish Maritime Authority. Thanks to oceanographic information, three of the four gas leaks can be identified, including their geographic coordinates. A fourth gas leak, discovered by the Swedish Coast Guard, has not yet been publicly identified.

In the second step, we analyzed the trajectory of the aforementioned FFAB123 flight through the flight plan. Aviation goods. On September 2, the flight tracker shows a flight path near Bornholm that actually matches the image from the social media posts. Flight FFAB123 made several circles in the Baltic Sea east of the island of Bornholm. However, when the geographic coordinates of the gas leak and flight path are overlaid on a map, a different picture emerges than the one depicted in the social media posts.

FFAB123 did not fly over the pipeline and did not even approach the gas leak sites. In particular, the northern gas leaks are far from the flight path of FFAB123. Based on our measurements, the flight path of FFAB123 was between 9 and 30 kilometers from the localized gas leak.


A viral claim the thinker The Russian claim in the telegram that an American helicopter with the code FFAB123 was responsible for the gas leak is unacceptable and misleading. The helicopter did not approach the site of the gas leak.

It is not yet clear who was responsible for the sabotage of the Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines or how it was carried out, although aerial sabotage is unlikely. German warship captain and maritime security expert Goran Swistek believes that special explosives may have been placed by underwater vehicles. “I know from my own research that Russia has developed a very strong research program in the underwater world in recent years,” Swisstech told German outlet ZDF.

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