RUSSIAN special forces are one of the prime suspects in the attack on the Nord Stream pipelines which has triggered a disaster in the Baltic Sea.
Behind the attack could have been the so-called “Frogmen” special forces commandos – who work for both the Russian Navy and Putin’s spies, the GRU, who were behind the Salisbury poisonings in 2018.
It is feared Russia could have either used deep sea divers or drone submarines to trigger massive explosions which blew two holes in Nord Stream 1 and one hole in Nord Stream 2.
Putin’s equivalent of the SAS, Spetsnaz troopers have a reputation for being well armed, highly trained and ruthless.
And the so-called “Frogmen” with their all-black wet suits and distinctive underwater guns are specialised to carry out operations in the deep.
Commandos in the unit are trained for both stealth and sabotage – with a range of tools at their disposal to carry out operations.
The forces have access to midget submarines, manned torpedoes, specialised weapons, speed boats and even trained dolphins.
Normally deployed from a warship, small boat or submarine – they deal with the most clandestine undersea operations.
Europe is sure the Nord Stream attack was an act of sabotage – and both Poland and Ukraine have pointed the finger at Russia.
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Putin’s frogmen are also understood to work for the specialist GUGI naval unit – the Main Directorate of Deep Research.
Despite its scientific name, it’s understood to be a spy division which specialises in undersea operation.
And this would potentially include targeting a pipeline or deep sea internet cables.
Russia’s frogmen are armed with the APS underwater rifle – a gun specially designed to be able to fire beneath the waves.
It shoot out 4.75 inch long steel bolts which can burst through tough wetsuits and better cut through water than ordinary bullets.
The bolts could in theory also damage small underwater vehicles.
And as their side arm, the frogmen wield SSP-1 pistols which shoot similar steel darts.
Both these weapons are less useful on land, but could be devastating for any enemies they come up against under the sea.
The frogmen are also trained that if the guns don’t work, they switch over to blades for brutal underwater combat.
But as drones become more and more prevalent – so have the frogmen adapted, bringing remote controlled mini subs into their arsenal.
Russian state media earlier in the year reported the commandos had been practicing with a robot designed to hunt down other frogmen.
The Marlin-350 is box-like underwater drone used by the troops which is equipped cameras and echolocation tech.
And it is understood Russia has a variant of midget submarines cable of “seabed engineering” which could be used to slice cables or even plant bombs on pipelines like Nord Stream.
The frogmen could also be delivered from a larger sub – even released while riding a manned torpedo which powers them to their destination.
But for one of the strangest parts of Russia’s underwater arsenal, it is sea animals which are trained to help them.
It was reported earlier this year that Putin’s dolphins were spotted at a Crimean naval base to protect them from underwater sabotage.
The dolphins are specially trained to sniff out mines and track down enemy frogmen.
and they can even attack the enemy divers.
Sea lions are also sometimes given the same training, and infamously a few years ago a “spy” Beluga whale was spotted off Norway.
Twin 800-mile pipelines Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 can ferry 110billion cubic metres of gas annually from Russia into Western Europe.
Both were shut off in an energy row between Moscow and the West linked to the war in Ukraine.
But on Monday there were undersea explosions and a mini earthquake detected, before fighter jets spotted roiling gas bubbles rising to the surface of the Baltic Sea.
German gas engineers reported there was an “explosive” pressure drop in the pipeline and the pipes have been “torn open”.
And federal investigators fear special forces using a submarine could have been used to damage Nord Stream, reports Tagesspiegel.
Energy boss Kristoffer Bottzauw, from Denmark’s energy agency, warned it could take a week for gas to stop draining out of the pipeline.
Europe is already braced for a bleak winter as gas becomes a key pawn in Putin’s clash on the West.
Russia described the attack on the pipelines as “very concerning news”.
European gas prices rose for first time after falling for the last four days in the wake of the attack.
Rolling blackouts, four day weeks, and normal people being unable to afford to heat their homes are just some of the consequences feared to sweep across the continent as temperatures plunge.
Energy has become a tug of war between the West and Russia as Putin’s tyrannical regime is sanctioned and isolated due to their savage war in Ukraine.
Gas prices were already high before the Ukraine war as demand soared after the lifting of Covid restrictions.
But prices skyrocketed after the invasion as Russia is one of the world’s biggest producers.
Continental Europe is heavily reliant in Russian gas imports, leading to fears of winter blackouts, rationing and factory closures in Germany.
Only a tiny fraction of Britain’s gas comes directly from Russia.
But the UK relies more on gas for generating electricity than European neighbours because it has less nuclear and renewable energy.
Britain also has little storage capacity, forcing energy firms to buy gas on the highly volatile short-term spot market.
Even the abundant North Sea gas is sold to the UK based on international market prices.