Reports On Nord Stream Sabotage Spread Confusion

Nord Stream 1
Half a million tons of methane rise from the sabotaged Nord Stream pipeline. Photo: Swedish Coast Guard

Stories and claims on the blowing up of parts of the Nord Stream gas pipelines is creating a lot of confusion.

Claims Of Ukrainian Link To Nord Stream Sabotage Hypothetical, Says Germany

Germany’s defense minister Boris Pistorius has dodged a question about how the Nord Stream sabotage case could influence Western military aid for Kiev if it turns out that pro-Ukrainian groups were behind the Russian gas pipeline blasts.

It is of no use to speculate on the “hypothetical” indications, the minister told national news radio Deutschlandfunk (DLF) on Wednesday, on the heels of several media reports linking the incident, which occurred in September 2022, to some alleged Ukrainian perpetrators.

“We will have to wait and see what is actually confirmed,” Pistorius told DLF’s Barbara Schmidt-Mattern when asked about the media reports.

On Tuesday, a host of German media outlets, including Die Zeit newspaper and state broadcaster ARD, reported that a vessel believed to be linked to the Nord Stream sabotage operation allegedly belongs to a Ukrainian-owned company. The reports also said that a Western intelligence agency is thought to have informed European “partner services” that a “Ukrainian commando” unit was behind the attack.

Pistorius brushed off all the claims presented in the reports as “hypothetical” and maintained that the sabotage act might have been a “false-flag operation” aimed at framing Ukraine.

The chance of it being a false-flag operation is as “equally high” as the chance of Ukrainians being behind it, the minister said. Berlin has so far not made any investigation results public. Sweden, Denmark and Germany have “informed the United Nations Security Council that the investigations are ongoing and that there are still no results,” a government spokesman declared on Tuesday.

Pistorius also insisted it would make little sense to “think about what impact this would have on our support for Ukraine on the basis of such a journalistic investigation” when asked about the potential fallout of a probe into the Nord Stream sabotage.

The minister also said that Germany and its allies continue to supply Kiev “to the best of our ability.” He added, though, that Ukraine’s Western backers can only provide ammunition for the Ukrainian troops as long as it does not compromise their own defense capacities.

“We need certain reserves to maintain our own ability to defend ourselves,” Pistorius said, calling limited defense industry production capacities a real “bottleneck” limiting Western military aid for Ukraine.

His words came as The Times reported that Western intelligence agencies had been well aware of the identity of a person behind the attack on Nord Stream. They decided at the time to conceal this information to avoid a spat between Berlin and Kiev, since the suspect had ties to Ukraine, the paper claimed.

CIA Warned Germany About Nord Stream Attack Months Before It Happened, Says WSJ

The CIA reportedly warned its German counterpart, the Bundesnachrichtendienst, better known as BND, about a potential attack on the Nord Stream pipelines months before an attack was carried out in late 2022.

Citing anonymous intelligence officials, the Wall Street Journal, reported that the warnings were sent by the CIA in June and July of 2022, months before the pipeline exploded in an apparent sabotage in September.

The warning reportedly stated three Ukrainian nationals were attempting to rent ships in countries that border the Baltic Sea, where the Nord Stream pipelines connect Russia and Germany.

The Wall Street Journal reported that senior U.S. officials, including CIA Chief William Burns and national security adviser Jake Sullivan, were considering the possibility that Ukraine was behind the attack as early as October, but did not say what that assessment was based on, or if it was related to the pro-Ukrainian group that allegedly attacked the pipelines.

Ukrainian senior officials denied its government had anything to do with the attack on the pipeline. “Although I enjoy collecting amusing conspiracy theories about [Ukraine] government,” Mykhailo Podolyak, the top adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Twitter. “I have to say: [Ukraine] has nothing to do with the Baltic Sea mishap and has no information about “pro-[Ukrainian] sabotage groups.”

Podolyak continues to blame Russia for the attack on Twitter, implying in a later tweet that Russia benefited from the attack.

Also in October, Germany’s federal prosecutor general Peter Frank said he had no evidence Russia was involved.

German media later claimed the incident was carried out by six people of unknown national origin who hired a yacht from a company registered in Poland and owned by two Ukrainian citizens.

Xavier Moreau, an arms expert and geopolitical analyst from the French think tank Stratpol finds reports that the attacks were carried out by a group of people unaffiliated with any government “ridiculous.”

Moreau says reports are designed to divert attention away from accusations that Washington carried out the attack, noting that the U.S. is one of the few countries that would have had the means to carry out the clandestine sabotage.

Five-time George Polk Award and one-time Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh reported prior to the pro-Ukrainian theory first, detailing in early February how US Navy divers had allegedly planted explosives along the pipeline under the cover of the Baltops 2022 NATO exercises.

CIA, White House Consider Version Of Kiev’s Involvement In Nord Stream Sabotage Acts, Reports WSJ

CIA Director William Burns and U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan considered a version of Ukraine’s responsibility for sabotage acts at Nord Stream gas pipelines in October 2022, the Wall Street Journal said, citing unnamed representatives of the U.S. administration.

The U.S. believes that Ukraine had an opportunity to perform such operation. No data are available at the moment indicating that Ukrainian authorities were involved in sabotage acts, the newspaper said.

The German investigation has almost completely excluded the version of Russia’s involvement in sabotage acts at gas pipelines. The U.S. also does not believe that Russia was involved, the newspaper informed.

German investigators arrived at the conclusion of non-involvement of Russia by February 2023, WSJ reported.

Conclusions are not final and the investigation continues, the newspaper said.

West Will Not Make Public Name Of Ukrainian Businessman Involved In Nord Stream Incident

The Western nations are likely not to disclose the name of a Ukrainian businessman alleged to be involved in sabotage acts at Nord Stream pipelines to keep the unity of the West in providing military aid to Ukraine, the Daily Telegraph newspaper said, citing sources.

The businessman, whose name is known to the news outlet, fell under suspicion in view of a special nature of sabotage acts that might hint that he was involved with the incident, sources said. A newspaper’s source in European security agencies confirmed that the businessman is on the radar screen of investigators but said nothing whether he is a formal suspect in the case.

West Knows Who Is Responsible For Nord Stream Attack, Reports The Times

Western intelligence agencies almost immediately determined that last year’s Nord Stream blasts had been orchestrated by a person with ties to Ukraine, but chose to conceal this information in order to avoid a diplomatic row between Kiev and Berlin, The Times reported on Wednesday.

According to the outlet, a Scandinavian delegation learned a week after the September 2022 attack on the gas pipelines, which connect Russia and Germany under the Baltic Sea, that it was staged “by a private venture originating in Ukraine.” They reportedly received this information at an intelligence briefing in Brussels.

“The name of the suspected private sponsor of the attack has been circulating in intelligence circles for months but not revealed,” the report said.

Without publishing any names, The Times identified the culprit as a Ukrainian not affiliated with the government in Kiev. It also alleged that the suspect “appears to have left a peculiar calling card,” without elaborating.

The delegation was also reportedly told to deflect any questions about why investigation of the matter was proceeding at such a slow pace.

The outlet suggested that NATO officials apparently wanted to “protect Ukraine from a public spat with Germany.” At the time of the incident, Berlin was reluctant to supply Kiev with Leopard 2 tanks without allied support. Germany changed its mind in January 2023, with several other Western nations also committing to tank deliveries.

The report comes after The New York Times claimed on Tuesday, citing anonymous sources, that a “pro-Ukrainian group” may have been behind the attack on the pipelines. The same day, German media alleged that investigators looking into the incident had found that the yacht reportedly used in the attack belonged to a Polish-based company owned by two Ukrainians.

On the same day, Germany state broadcaster ARD, SWR radio and Die Zeit newspaper claimed that German investigators looking into the incident had found that the yacht reportedly used in the attack belonged to a Polish-based company owned by two Ukrainians.

While the White House has denied any responsibility, in January, U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland suggested that Washington must be “very gratified to know” that Nord Stream 2 is no longer operational.

U.S. Spies Say Pro-Ukrainian Group Bombed Nord Stream, Reports New York Times

Unspecified new intelligence “suggests that a pro-Ukrainian group” was behind the September 2022 attack on Nord Stream pipelines, the New York Times reported on Tuesday, quoting anonymous US officials.

The Times’ unnamed sources said they “believed the saboteurs were most likely Ukrainian or Russian nationals, or some combination of the two” and that “no American or British nationals were involved.” They further said they had no evidence Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky or his “top lieutenants” were involved, or that the “any Ukrainian government officials” directed the attack.

The anonymous officials could not say who directed or paid for the “operation” and said it was possible the attack “might have been conducted off the books by a proxy force with connections to the Ukrainian government or its security services.”

The bombs that tore apart three of four pipeline strings at the bottom of the Baltic Sea were “most likely” planted by experienced divers, “who did not appear to be working for military or intelligence services,” but may have received “specialized government training in the past,” the anonymous officials claimed.

They also said U.S. President Joe Biden and his top aides “did not authorize” the attack on Nord Stream and that “there was no U.S. involvement” in the blasts. These statements directly address last month’s report by investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, who accused the US of ordering the bombing and planting the explosives.

While Western European officials also believe the attack was state-sponsored, “U.S. officials have not stated publicly that the operation was sponsored by a state,” the Times noted.

Some officials see “Ukraine and its allies” as having “the most logical potential motive” to destroy the pipelines. It was unclear who they meant by allies; though Poland has been the most outspoken critic of Nord Stream, the US and the entire NATO bloc have sent more than $100 billion worth of weapons and other aid to Kiev over the past year.

“Any finding that put blame on Kyiv or Ukrainian proxies could prompt a backlash in Europe and make it harder for the West to maintain a united front in support of Ukraine,” the Times reporters noted.

The Nord Stream explosions happened five weeks after the Moscow car bombing that killed Russian journalist Darya Dugina. Anonymous U.S. spies told the Times last October they believed “elements” within the Ukrainian government – but not Zelensky – were responsible, but declined to name anyone. Kiev has officially denied any responsibility whatsoever.

“After the Nord Stream operation, there was hushed speculation – and worry – in Washington that parts of the Ukrainian government have been involved in that operation as well,” the Times reported on Tuesday.

The anonymous officials who spoke to the paper said there was “no evidence so far” the Ukrainian government was involved, and that President Joe Biden’s trust in Zelensky “has been steadily increasing.” The Times did acknowledge that American intelligence has “limited visibility into Ukrainian decision-making,” despite Kiev’s “deep dependence” on the U.S.

Ukraine’s Response To Nord Stream Allegations

Kiev had nothing to do with the sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines, the Ukrainian defense minister has said in response to media reports blaming last September’s explosions in the Baltic Sea on a “pro-Ukraine group.”

“For me, it is a little bit strange story,” Aleksey Reznikov replied when asked about the issue after his arrival at an informal meeting of EU defense ministers in Stockholm on Wednesday.

“This story has nothing to do with us,” he said, expressing confidence that “the investigation by the official authorities will describe every detail” of what had happened.

The claims of Ukrainian involvement in the sabotage are “like a complement for our special forces, but this is not our activity,” the minister added.

Journalists asked Reznikov if he was concerned that the latest media reports could lead to a reduction in EU support for Kiev amid the conflict with Moscow. “No. I am not concerned. Everything would be OK,” he said.

West Likely Covering Up Nord Stream Probe Findings, Says French general

The fact that none of the Western nations investigating the Nord Stream pipeline explosions have released their findings implies they have reached a conclusion they would rather keep under the rug, a French general has claimed.

Dominique Trinquand, the former head of the French military mission to the UN and NATO, also described as “trustworthy” a recent exposé by Pulitzer Prize-winning US investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, which alleged that Washington was behind the act of sabotage.

Speaking on France’s LCI TV channel on Friday about the attack, which took place in September 2022, Trinquand argued that “we could have found proof if it were the Russians.” He went on to suggest that if there is still no evidence incriminating Moscow, “you have to look elsewhere.”

A key question that needs to be asked, according to the French general, is “who benefits from the crime?”

Seeing that the destroyed pipelines were owned by Moscow, “the crime a priori will not benefit the Russians,” Trinquand insisted.

He also pointed out the fact that even though such countries as Sweden, Denmark, and Germany have conducted their own probes into the explosions, recovering a lot of material from the site, no conclusions have been made public as of yet.

“And if we do not have any conclusion, it is because there are probably conclusions that they do not want to give,” the general surmised.

Commenting on Hersh’s bombshell report, which pointed the finger squarely at the U.S., Trinquand asserted that the story is not only plausible, but also verifiable by pretty much anyone thanks to online aircraft- and vessel-tracking services available nowadays.

In his article, Hersh claimed U.S. Navy divers had planted bombs at the undersea pipelines for pumping gas from Russia to Germany back in June 2022 under the guise of the BALTOPS 22 NATO exercise in the Baltic Sea.

According to the exposé, the explosives were detonated three months later with a remote signal sent by a sonar buoy dropped by a Norwegian Navy P8 surveillance plane.

Washington has consistently denied any involvement in the sabotage, while top Russian officials have called for a UN investigation into what President Vladimir Putin has described as an “an act of international terrorism.”

New Nord Stream Reports Look Like Coordinated Hoax, Says Moscow

Western media reports which exonerate NATO state actors from involvement in the explosions that ruptured the Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines have the hallmarks of a synchronized misinformation campaign, the Kremlin told journalists on Wednesday.

Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov said it looked like an attempt to deflect attention from the real culprits. The anonymously sourced reports emerged just a few days after German Chancellor Olaf Scholz visted Washington, where he met with U.S. President Joe Biden, and other officials.

Peskov said he was surprised by the fact that the U.S. officials quoted in the reports could make guesses about the blasts without conducting any investigation.

Obviously, those who have masterminded the [Nord Stream] attack want to divert attention. Obviously, this is a coordinated media hoax campaign.

The Kremlin spokesman also noted that Russia had still not been invited to take part in the investigation.

“This is not just strange. It smells like a monstrous crime. At least, the shareholder countries of the pipelines and the UN should demand an urgent transparent investigation, which would involve all parties that could shed light,” he said.

Russia’s embassy to the U.S. also commented on the NYT article, with Minister-Counselor Andrey Ledenev saying Moscow perceived the anonymous leaks “as nothing more than an attempt to confuse those who are sincerely trying to get to the bottom of things in this egregious crime.”

He noted that the NYT story “instantly got a ‘green light’ in the local information field.” The diplomat said this development was “especially noteworthy” given the attempts by local officials and journalists to “blatantly silence” the bombshell report released by the Pulitzer Prize winner Hersh.

West Uses Tactic Of Leaks In Nord Stream Issue, Says Russian MFA

The U.S. and the UK are using the tactics of controlled leaks in the issue of the Nord Stream explosions in a bid to build an agenda that suits them, but the truth will come out, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement on Wednesday.

“Washington and London follow the beaten path of using controlled leaks in this matter, shaping up the agenda that suits them,” she said. “But the truth will come out, I’m sure,” the diplomat said on Telegram.

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