Official Russian Reaction to the SS-750 Story and Possible Submarine Activity Near Nord Stream
The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has reacted to the SS-750 story in the most comical way possible. At the same time I have investigated Russian submarine activity near the Nord Stream site.
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We now have an official Russian reaction to the to the investigation of the SS-750 at the site of the Nord Stream blasts from the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Instead of trying to explain away the SS-750 and other Russian naval vessels’ presence at the site as part of their announced naval exercises, they decided to claim that it was impossible for the SS-750 to be present at the site. They state that the Russian Baltic Fleet exercises took place in the Eastern and Central part of the Baltic Sea and therefore the presence of Russian vessels in the Western part near Bornholm was impossible. As is often the case with official announcements from the Russian government, they chose to use the most moronic of excuses. If nothing else, this denial makes it even more likely that the Russian government is behind the attacks on Nord Steam.
Possible Russian Submarine Activity on September 22nd alongside the SS-750
Over the past weeks, I have been further investigating the Nord Stream blasts with a focus on possible Russian submarine activity in the area prior to the blast. This has always been of interest as in the days immediately following the blasts, CNN wrote the following in an article:’
Russian submarines were also observed not far from those areas last week, one of the intelligence officials said.
I have since also heard several other sources mention the possibility of Russian submarine activity in the area. It is hard to know whether these sources would classify the rescue submersible on the SS-750 as a “sub” or they specifically meant larger Russian submarines.
On September 22nd 2022, there were 4 Russian submarines in the Baltic Sea, 3 of which were operational.
Project 877 Kilo-class submarine Vyborg (B-227)
Project 877EKM Kilo-class submarine Dmitrov (B-806)
Project 677 Lada-class Kronshtadt (B-586)
Project 636.3 Improved Kilo-class submarine Ufa (B-588)
The Vyborg (B-227), while technically still present in the Baltic Sea, was decommissioned in 2018 and is currently moored in Kronstadt until plans to turn it into a museum materialize. Therefore this submarine can quickly be ruled out as having been involved in any way.
The Dmitrov (B-806) entered drydock at Kronstadt back in 2021 for a major overhaul and remained in drydock until September 15th 2022.
On September 15th 2022 at around 16:00 UTC the Dmitrov (B-806) was moved out of drydock and moored nearby by the two Russian tugs RB-20 and RB-366. Here the Dmitrov (B-806) would remain until after the explosion on the Nord Stream pipeline.
This leaves the two Russian submarines in the Baltic that were active leading up to the Nord Stream sabotage, both of which were involved in activities with the SS-750 in September 2022.
A Russian Ministry of Defence press release from September 6th 2022 states that the SS-750 was used to support a test dive to 100m during trials of two diesel-electric submarines. These submarines were the Project 636.3 Improved Kilo-class submarine Ufa (B-588) and the Project 677 Lada-class Kronshtadt (B-586).
This 100m test dive took place on September 6th-8th in one of the deepest parts of the Baltic Sea between Gotland and Latvia. Here the Latvian Skrunda class patrol boat P-05 Skrunda circled for the duration likely keeping a close eye on the activities of the surface support ships including the SS-750.
Following this 100m test dive the Kronshtadt (B-586) returned to Kronstadt on early on September 10th, where she shows up her usual spot on satellite images on September 10th and 11th. The Kronshtadt (B-586) again shows up on satellite images in Kronstadt on the September 21st and 22nd. This rules out the Kronshtadt (B-586) as being in the area of the Nord Stream sabotage on September 21st and 22nd along side the SS-750 and other vessels. She is again seen on satellite images in port at the same location on September 27th following the explosions.
The final Russian submarine present in the Baltic Sea is the Ufa (B-588). After completing the 100m test dive alongside the Kronshtadt (B-586), the Ufa (B-588) would return to St. Petersburg on September 17th and dock at the JSC Admiralty Shipyards. Here moved to to her mooring location by the two Russian tugs, Mikhail Salnikov and V. Beltsov.
Here the Ufa (B-588) remained until October 1st when the same two Russian tugs assisted the Ufa (B-588) in once again leaving the JSC Admiralty Shipyards and entering the Baltic Sea.
In summation, this means that during the period where the six Russian vessels were present at the Nord Stream blast site from September 21st-22nd and the time of the explosions on September 26th, no Russian attack submarines were present in the Baltic Sea.
The Curious Case of the Ufa
One thing does however stand out. Following the 100m test dive, the Ufa (B-588) remained at sea for a week longer than the other vessels involved in the test. While the test likely ended in the early hours of September 8th, we now know that the Ufa (B-588) did not return until the 17th. The Kronshtadt (B-586) which performed the same test dive was back in Kronstadt on the 10th, a week before the Ufa (B-588).
Looking at satellite images of Baltiysk naval base, we can see that the SS-750 that supported the test dive and submarine operations was back in port on September 12th
AIS data shows that the SS-750 likely returned to Baltiysk at around 07:00 UTC on September 10th when the two Russian tugs RB-410 and Anatoliy Ivanov moved a ship into the position where it was docked 2 days later and normally docks when in Baltiysk.
Why did the Ufa (B-588) remain at sea for a week longer than both the Kronshtadt (B-586) performing the same 100m dive test and the SS-750 that was supporting it during the tests?
Interestingly this time period is also when the Greek flagged tanker Minerva Julie loitered above what would become the site of the Nord Stream explosions a few weeks later. From September 6th, the Minerva Julie would spend 7 days continuously drifting and repositioning above the Nord Stream pipes before finally sailing for St. Petersburg on September 13th. Given the timeframe, it is a possibility that the Ufa (B-588) operated below the Minerva Julie during this time.
Best estimates say that the Ufa (B-588) would require approximately 100 hours to get from the Nord Stream blast site to St. Petersburg if the submarine was attempting to avoid detection. The Minerva Julie finally left the Nord Stream site 91 hours prior to the Ufa (B-588) returning to St. Petersburg.
The Project 1388NZ Communication ship, KSV-2168 which rendezvoused with the SB-123 and Aleksandr Frolov on September 23rd also took its only other trip out of Baltyisk in September on the 12th. The KSV-2168 is likely involved in the Russian Nord Stream activity as it rendezvoused with the SB-123 and Aleksandr Frolov directly after their trip. It is possible that it communicated with the Ufa (B-588) during this trip on September 12th.
On October 5th 2022 another press release mentioning the both the SS-750 and the Ufa (B-588) was published. This time it mentions the SS-750 supporting the Ufa (B-588) on a 190m test dive.
This 190m test dive took place in the same location as the 100m test dive as it is the only viable location for a dive to this depth in the Baltic Sea. This time the Swedish Navy sent a vessel to observe the test. The vessel uses the same MMSI (265500330) as the vessel that investigated the Nord Stream site on September 22nd after the Russian ships were spotted in the area. Unfortunately it is not possible to follow this vessel more closely as it’s tracking data was previously removed from MarineTraffic the day after our original SS-750 story was released.
The Ufa (B-588) was finally officially commissioned into the Russian Navy during a ceremony on November 17th 2022, after completion of its sea trials. This means that during the trip where it may have operated near the Nord Stream pipeline it would have been crewed by a more experienced acceptance crew rather than an ordinary Russian navy crew.
The new half-baked Russian denial has made it almost a certainty that Russia is behind the sabotage of Nord Stream. The question remains as to what the exact method used was. The SS-750 is very likely directly involved, but perhaps the Ufa (B-588) may have also played a part. The presence of the Ufa (B-588) would be much harder for the western intelligence agencies to prove conclusively. The presence of the SS-750 has long been known to the intelligence agencies, but may not have been observed directly above the site, meaning that there is part of the story missing. In theory the presence of the SS-750 could have been part of the Russian calling card, as they would want NATO to know it was them without being able to conclusively prove it.