'Danger to come': Damaged cable in Shetlands 'may have been a dry run for Russia' – claim

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A “major incident” was declared on the Shetland Isles today after a fishing vessel accidentally damaged a cable which provides vital telephone and internet communication to the island. In the aftermath, one expert said he had other suspicions as to the cause, one being that it may have been a “dry run by Russia to test a larger attack against undersea cables.” While the communication failure left 22,870 people without basic access to their mobiles and landlines – there are fears a bigger scale target on cables linking Europe and England with North America could cause a widespread communication outage.  Brandon Weichert, a geopolitical analyst and former Congressional staff member, spoke exclusively to Express.co.uk, dubbing the whole situation today as “strange.”

He said: “Officially, it [the cut cable] is believed to have been [done by] a fisherman. Although, even as that story indicates, two points of damage at two different areas along the cable track is strange. 

“We know that the Russian Navy has been interested in severing undersea cables since before the start of the Russo-Ukraine War. It is my belief that this may have been a dry run for Russia to test a larger attack against undersea cables linking Europe with England and with North America.”

The Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines were “sabotaged” in a blast last month, causing gas to leak out into the Baltic Sea. While there is no evidence proving who the perpetrator was, Western officials suspect Russia was behind it.

While Faroese Telecom’s head of infrastructure Páll Vesturbú said there is reason to believe a fishing vessel caused a fault in the SHEFA-2 submarine cable between Shetland and Orkney, he did note that having two problems at the same time is “very rare.”

Mr Weichert claimed: “Interestingly, the Faroe Islands, which were affected by these cable cuts along with the Shetlands, got into hot water earlier this year in April because they were granting Russian fishing vessels licenses to fish for blue whiting in Faroe’s waters in exchange for Faroese fishing vessels being granted the right to fish for haddock, cod, and other fish in Russia’s Exclusive Economic Zone.

“Under the imprimatur of being simple fishing vessels, Russia could have conducted a sabotage operation against those undersea cables. After all, like China, Russia has no qualms about using civilian vessels for military purposes. This could have been Russia. What’s more, it is likely a test run for something bigger. “

He also warned that the incident should come as a wake-up call for Britain, even if it does turn out to have been an accident.

“And, even if it truly was an accident unrelated to the ongoing conflict with Russia, the fact remains that this should be a warning for UK leaders (and Western leaders more generally) about the dangers posed to the world by Russian sabotage operations directed against critical undersea cables,” he added.

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“The longer the Russo-Ukraine War drags on and the more battlefield defeats Putin’s forces endure, Putin will lash out and seek to reorder events in his favour by using any and all drastic measures. Attacking undersea cables is an obvious way for him to achieve this extreme goal.”

But Harry Buckle, author of Just One Day, who has also worked with MI6, told Express.co.uk the incident was likely to have been an accident, adding it was probably “local fishing boats.” 

Mr Buckle also said that the damage was unlikely to have been caused by Russia due to the fact that it happened “fairly inshore” and for “no real reason”.

The cable between Faroe and Shetland, which was damaged prior to the south submarine cable, is now scheduled to be repaired on Saturday, according to Mr Vesturbú. 

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He said earlier on Thursday: “The damage is affecting most of telecom services to Shetland. There are some services still working but we will try to establish more services during the day if that’s possible. We expect it will be fishing vessels that damaged the cable but it is very rare that we have two problems at the same time.”

Police have said they were “patrolling the area”, but are yet to give exact confirmation as to what caused the damage. Express.co.uk has contacted Police Scotland for an update, but is yet to receive any further update. 

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace warned that the “mysterious” damage to the Nord Stream pipelines should be a reminder of how “fragile” the UK economy and infrastructure are in the face of “hybrid attacks”.

To address this, he said the Ministry of Defence will send out two “specialist ships” to patrol and protect the UK’s subsea network as its “internet and energy are highly reliant on pipelines and cables”.



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