Rail network halted by ‘malicious and targeted’ sabotage in Germany

Putin claims Nord stream pipeline was 'attacked'

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Police in Germany are investigating after cables vital for the rail network were cut in a “malicious and targeted” act of sabotage. They were cut in two places, bringing all rail traffic in northern Germany to a standstill for almost three hours on Saturday morning.

Transport Minister Volker Wissing told a news conference: “It is clear this was a targeted and malicious action.”

German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said the motive for the sabotage was unclear.

The disruption raised alarm bells after NATO and the European Union last month stressed the need to protect critical infrastructure.

It came after what they described as acts of sabotage on the Nord Stream gas pipelines.

A security source said there were a variety of possible causes, ranging from cable theft – which is frequent – to a targeted attack.

Omid Nouripour, leader of the Green party, which is part of Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s federal coalition, said anyone who attacked the country’s critical infrastructure would receive a decisive response.

He wrote on Twitter: “We will not be intimidated.”

State rail operator Deutsche Bahn (DB) said in a statement: “Due to sabotage on cables that are indispensable for rail traffic, Deutsche Bahn had to stop rail traffic in the north this morning for nearly three hours.”

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DB had earlier blamed the network disruption on a technical problem with radio communications. Spiegel magazine said the communications system was down at around 6.40am local time (4.40am GMT).

At 11.06am local time, DB tweeted traffic had been restored, but warned of continued train cancellations and delays.

The disruption affected rail services through the states of Lower Saxony and Schlewsig-Holstein as well as the city states of Bremen and Hamburg, with a knock-on effect to international rail journeys to Denmark and the Netherlands.

They came the day before a state election in Lower Saxony where Mr Scholz’s Social Democrats are on track to retain power and the Greens are expected to double their share of the vote, according to polls.

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Queues rapidly built up at mainline stations including Berlin and Hanover as departure boards showed many services being delayed or cancelled.

Meanwhile, Swedish security police said a crime scene investigation of damage to the Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines has strengthened suspicions of “gross sabotage”.

The Swedish Foreign Ministry said Russia’s Prime Minister sent a letter to the Swedish Government requesting a role for Russian authorities in the investigation into the explosions which damaged the Nord Stream pipelines.

Stockholm’s investigation found evidence of detonations with prosecutors suspecting sabotage.

Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for Russia’s Foreign Ministry, said on Thursday Moscow would insist on a comprehensive and open investigation which includes Russian officials and Gazprom.

She said: “Not to allow the owner (of the pipelines) to witness the investigation means there is something to hide.”

Swedish and Danish authorities have been investigating four leaks after the pipelines, which link Russia and Germany via the Baltic Sea, were damaged at the beginning of last week.

Europe, which previously relied on Russia for about 40 percent of its gas, faces an energy crisis in the aftermath of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine which has drastically cut supplies of the fuel.

Moscow has said it will consider its own investigation into the pipelines’ leaks with Danish opposition to Russia being involved in its examination.

Russia also said refusal by Denmark to allow it to be part of the investigation undermined the reliability of any future results.

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Friday Nordic leaders had told their European partners it was still impossible to say who was behind the Nord Stream attacks.

He added French infrastructure such as pipelines, cables and satellites were points of vulnerability which needed to be reinforced.

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