The Danish military on Friday said that it spotted a Russian submarine rescue ship in the Baltic Sea four days before underwater explosions ruptured the Nord Stream gas pipelines in September.
Denmark’s defence command told local daily Dagbladet Information that a Danish patrol boat took 26 pictures of the SS-750 ship near the Danish island of Bornholm on September 22.
The Russian vessel is designed for underwater operations and carries a small submarine on board.
The newspaper said the confirmation of the SS-750's sighting sheds new light on what led to the unexplained explosions.
They caused spectacular leaks visible from space and are still under investigation by Denmark, Sweden and Germany.
It was previously reported that the Danish military obtained 112 pictures of Russian vessels in the Bornholm area before the blasts, but this is the first time it has been confirmed that the SS-750 was among them, according to Dagbladet Information.
The Danish military refused to provide access to the pictures, saying they were part of “intelligence work.” The content of the remaining 86 photos remains unknown.
Dagbladet Information’s report confirms in part claims previously put forward by German news website t-online and open-source intelligence expert Oliver Alexander. They said they believed the SS-750 and five other Russian vessels were present near the site of the explosions.
Experts told the daily it was likely the six vessels were involved in what Sweden, Denmark and Germany have described as an act of sabotage.
Russia has denied being responsible for the attacks and has blamed the West, without providing evidence. The US and Ukraine have also denied involvement.
Satellite images indicate that the SS-750 left the Russian port of Kaliningrad shortly after midnight on September 21 and then switched off its data transmitters north of Poland.
Earlier this month, the Swedish prosecutor investigating the blasts said that a state actor’s involvement was the “absolute main scenario”, without being more specific.
In January, Germany raided a ship that may have been used to transport the explosives used to blow up the pipelines. German media reported the boat could have been used by a small Ukrainian or pro-Ukrainian group.
The Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 pipelines were built by Russia’s state-controlled Gazprom to send natural gas to Germany.