Leaks in the Nord Stream pipelines from Russia to Europe are a very serious development and highly suspicious, but a full investigation is needed to establish what happened, a Western official said on Wednesday.
The official did not blame Russia for the leaks but said President Vladimir Putin should undo his recent series of escalations over the invasion of Ukraine, especially nuclear rhetoric the official said was "deeply irresponsible."
Europe is investigating thecause of major leaks into the Baltic Sea from two Russian gas pipelines at the center of an energy standoff with Moscow. Poland's prime minister said it was an act of sabotage linked to Russia's escalation of the situation in Ukraine.
"On the pipelines, clearly, this looks very serious. The multiple explosions at the same time - it's very serious, and is going to have to be investigated," the Western official said, on condition of anonymity.
"It definitely looks highly suspicious, but I think we need to establish the facts and then attribute."
The Kremlin said on Wednesday claims that Russia was behind a possible attack on the Nord Stream pipelines were stupid, adding that the incident needed to be investigated and the timings for repair of the pipelines were not clear.
Following Ukraine's retaking of northeastern territory in a fierce counteroffensive, Putin has announced a partial military mobilization and stepped up rhetoric about Russia's preparedness to use nuclear weapons.
The Western official said the heightened nuclear rhetoric might be a sign of Putin's panic and his possible realization that invading Ukraine was a mistake, warning that if he used such weapons there would be unspecified severe consequences.
The official called on Russia, as a member of the U.N. Security council, to stop using "deeply irresponsible" nuclear rhetoric, and de-escalate the crisis.
"We are not going to be deterred from supporting Ukraine in defending its own territory," the official said. "[Russia] needs to pull back from this. And of course, there will be really severe consequences if they crossed this reddest of red lines."
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