The Estonian government has reportedly contacted Chinese authorities as part of its ongoing probe into the damage done to a gas pipeline and submarine telecommunications cables earlier this month

On October 8, a gas pipeline and submarine telecoms cable connecting Finland and Estonia were both severely damaged, with the event threatening to escalate into a diplomatic incident.

Last week, preliminary investigations by the Finnish and Estonian governments revealed that the cable damage was the results of “human interference”, raising the possibility that the infrastructure was deliberately sabotaged.

“The investigation has confirmed that the damage has been caused by an external mechanical force, and based on current knowledge there is no reason to believe the damage has been caused by an explosion,” explained Detective Superintendent Risto Lohi, who is leading the Finnish arm of the investigation.

The incident occurred at a time of heightened tensions in the Baltic Sea, with explosions having ruptured the Nord Stream pipeline just last month, cutting Europe’s access to Russian gas. This damage saw NATO forces increase their patrols in the region, using ships, drones, and reconnaissance aircraft to observe the area.

A pair of suspects in the cable damage were quickly identified, with both the Hong-Kong-flagged NewNew Polar Bear and Russia-flagged Sevmorput present at the sites at the time they were damaged, according to maritime data from MarinTraffic.

Now, both the Finnish and Estonian governments have reportedly contacted authorities in China seeking cooperation in their investigation.

“Estonia has been in contact with Chinese authorities to encourage cooperation concerning the investigation,” a government official told Reuters.

Why the investigation is seemingly focussing on the Chinese vessel is unclear. At this point in the investigation, the Estonian government says it has “not seen [the] necessity” of contacting Russia regarding further details surrounding the activity of the Sevmorput. This could simply be a case a treading carefully, however, given that Latvian president Edgars Rinkēvičs recently inflamed tensions with Russian by suggesting that Baltic shipping routes should be cut off if they were found to be involved in the Nord Stream explosions.

Russia have vehemently denied involvement in either incident.

Chinese authorities, meanwhile, have been quick to downplay the suggestion that their vessel may have been involved in the subsea cable severing, saying in a statement that the ship was “normal in the relevant waters at the time of the incident, and no abnormalities were found due to the poor sea conditions at that time”.

Estonian officials say they are still investigating whether the damage was done intentionally or through negligence.

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