BERLIN - Two days after a pair of explosions under the Baltic Sea apparently ruptured giant natural gas pipelines from Russia to Germany, the consensus hardened Wednesday that it had been an act of sabotage, as the European Union and several European governments labelled it an attack and demanded an investigation.
Experts said it could take months to assess and repair the damage to the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines, which have been used as leverage in the West's confrontation with Moscow over Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
News of a possible attack on the lines heightened already intense fears of painful energy shortages in Europe over the winter.
But the central mystery remains: Who did it?
"All available information indicates those leaks are the result of a deliberate act," the EU's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a statement Wednesday. "We will support any investigation aimed at getting full clarity on what happened and why."
Mr Jake Sullivan, US President Joe Biden's national security adviser, called the episode "apparent sabotage."
But with little evidence to go on - US officials said that explosive gas pouring from the broken pipes made it too dangerous to get close to the breach - the United States and most of its European allies stopped short of publicly naming any suspects. Still, some officials speculated about the many ways that Russia might gain, even though the pipeline carries its gas.
Poland and Ukraine openly blamed Russia, which pointed a finger at the United States, and Moscow and Washington issued indignant denials.
US officials and outside experts also speculated over whether Ukraine or one of the Baltic States, which have long opposed the pipelines, might have had an interest in seeing them disabled - and in sending a message.
As the war began, Germany blocked the just-completed Nord Stream 2 from going into service, and Russia later shut off the flow through Nord Stream 1, setting off a frantic effort in Europe to secure enough fuel to heat homes, generate electricity and power businesses.
Some European and US officials cautioned Wednesday that it would be premature to conclude that Russia was behind the apparent attacks on the Nord Streams, each of which is actually two pipelines.
President Vladimir Putin likes to show he has his finger on the gas valve, they noted, but wielding that power could mean keeping the pipeline...