Russian ‘underwater operations’ ship was photographed near site of Nord Stream explosions
Denmark has confirmed that a Russian naval vessel equipped for underwater operations was in the Baltic Sea last September, close to an area where explosions ruptured Nord Stream gas pipelines four days later.
The vessel in question is the SS-750 rescue ship which carries a 55-tonne mini-submarine on its deck and has a crane for lowering it into the water.
The mini-submarine is the Priz-class AS-26 submersible which has a crew of four and can carry up to 20 passengers (see video). It is designed to rescue trapped submariners from depths of up to 1,000 metres but it also has a manipulator arm capable of lifting 50kg.
The SS-750 left Baltiysk naval base shortly after midnight on September 21 and is believed to have been accompanied by two rescue tugboats, the Aleksandr Frolov and SB-123 (see previous post).
The SS-750 was travelling “dark” with its Automatic Identification System (AIS) turned off, but the two tugs believed to be accompanying it kept their AIS on for a while. It showed them heading west, in the direction of the Danish island of Bornholm.
The Aleksandr Frolov tug was the last to turn off its AIS, at 14.22 on September 21. At that point it was 45 nautical miles from the sabotage area northeast of Bornholm, which it could have reached by about 19.30 — half an hour after sunset — if it continued at its previous speed.
At 19.50 on September 21 Denmark dispatched the P524 Nymfen patrol vessel, apparently to investigate. It arrived around 06.15 the following morning.
Last week, in response to a freedom of information request, the Danish Defence Command revealed that the Nymfen had taken 112 photos of Russian ships in the areas on September 22. It declined to release the photos, citing their “intelligence value”.
In response to a further request, the Defence Command now says 26 of the photos show the SS-750 — thus confirming its presence in the area at the relevant time.
Quoted by the Danish news website Information, Russia expert Joakim von Braun describes the revelation as “incredibly interesting” because “the SS-750 is a special vessel that is designed precisely for underwater operations.”
Note: Google’s English version of the Information article refers to the “Norwegian” Defence Command rather than the Danish one. This is an error in translation caused by both countries having the same name for their Defence Commands.
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