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Putin could use false claim of 'UK terror attack' to sabotage gas pipeline to UK

The Ormen Lange land plant, or Nyhamna gas plant in Aukra, which receives and processes gas from the Ormen Lange field in the Norwegian Sea is seen on October 13, 2022. - A major natural gas processing plant in western Norway, a vital source of supply to the UK, was briefly evacuated on October 13, 2022 after a threatening phone call, police said.
Having become Europe's main supplier of natural gas after Russian supplies were cut in the wake of the war in Ukraine, the Scandinavian country has stepped up security around its oil and gas facilities following the alleged sabotage of two Nord Stream pipelines in the Baltic Sea. - Norway OUT (Photo by Frank Einar Vatne / NTB / AFP) / Norway OUT (Photo by FRANK EINAR VATNE/NTB/AFP via Getty Images)
Norway's Nyhamna gas plant is a vital source of supply to the UK. (Getty Images)

Russia could use unfounded claims that Britain was involved in attacks on critical Russian infrastructure as a pretext for disrupting energy supplies from Norway to the UK, a military expert has warned.

On Saturday, the Kremlin's defense ministry said British navy personnel blew up the Nord Stream gas pipelines last month, a claim that London said was false and designed to distract from Russian military failures in Ukraine.

The Russian ministry also alleged that "British specialists" from the same unit directed Ukrainian drones packed with explosives in attacks on ships in its Black Sea fleet in Crimea at the weekend.

The Kremlin described the "massive drone attack" as an act of terrorism and said it would resume its blockade of grain shipments from Ukraine as a result - tearing up a UN-brokered deal and putting people in some countries at risk of starvation.

Ukraine has not openly admitted to the strike, but President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the decision to withdraw from the grain deal was "rather predictable".

Watch: Former commander warns Russia could attack British gas supply over 'false claims' about Crimea drone attack

Russia has a long history of carrying out "false flag" operations with the aim of portraying itself as a victim as a pretext for military action, and a former commander of Britain's Joint Forces Command says the UK could now be targeted in some way.

General Sir Richard Barrons told Times Radio that while it is "clearly ridiculous" to claim that British experts were involved in the drone stroke, it is an "indication of how Russia's eye is turning to the supporters of Ukraine".

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With Kremlin forces struggling on the frontlines and losing swathes of territory, Moscow is looking at ways to "deplete the will, particularly of Western powers, to continue to support Ukraine," he added.

"We shouldn't be surprised if we too get a tough time, whether it's in cyberspace or electricity generation, or whatever it is, in the coming weeks and months."

Although it is "absolutely clear" that claims the British naval assisted with the drone strike are "nonsense", he said claims like this are usually made to "justify something that happens now".

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy with Taoiseach Micheal Martin (not seen) during a joint press conference at the Ukrainian Government Building in Kyiv, Ukraine, as the premier visits Ukraine to reiterate Irish solidarity with the Ukrainian authorities in the face of the Russian invasion. Picture date: Wednesday July 6, 2022.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russia's decision to resumt its grain blockade was "rather predictable". (Getty Images)

The Kremlin has previously blamed the West for the explosions last month that ruptured the Russian-built Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 pipelines on the bed of the Baltic Sea.

But Russia has never before given specific details of who was responsible for the damage to the pipelines, previously the largest routes for Russian gas supplies to Europe.

Sir Richard added: "That might be more cyber interference, citing the pipeline attack as justification. It might be the interference of the gas supply from Norway about which there has been some loose chatter.

"So we should take notice of what Russia says, not because it's true, but because of what it might herald happening next."

On Thursday the US released plans to better track weapons supplied to Kyiv, over fears Russian forces could capture them and use them to fabricate attacks by Ukrainian forces.

It followed unfounded claims that Ukraine was planning to use a "dirty bomb" on Russian soil, which officials in the Washington, London and Paris feared as an excuse to escalate the war.

Ukraine's defence minister Oleksii Reznikov said Moscow's allegations were "fake" and an act of "nuclear blackmail".