Nord Stream pipelines: Ukrainian government denies involvement in sabotage
Ukraine has denied any involvement in the sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines following a media report citing new information that a “pro-Ukrainian group” may have been behind last year’s attack on Russian gas supplies to Europe.
The resignation by a senior Ukrainian official on Tuesday came on the heels of a New York Times reportciting new intelligence reviewed by U.S. officials.
“While I enjoy collecting funny conspiracy theories about (Ukraine’s) government, I must say: (Ukraine) has nothing to do with the accident in the Baltic Sea and has no information about ‘pro-(Ukraine) sabotage groups,'” Mykhailo Podolyak, top adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, wrote on Twitter.
The New York Times said the new intelligence reviewed by US officials suggested that a group loyal to Ukraine but acting independently of the Kiev government was involved in the operation.
Mystery has surrounded who may be responsible for the brutal sabotage last September, which damaged two pipelines carrying Russian gas to the European Union and targeting a vital source of income for Moscow. Both pipelines were closed at the time of the attack, which took place months after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
A source familiar with US intelligence told CNN that the assessment was not made with great confidence and is not the predominant view of the intelligence community, and that the US has not yet identified a perpetrator for the attack.
There is a section of the US intelligence community that believes that pro-Ukrainian actors would have had the motive to sabotage the pipelines because of how Russia armed them against Ukraine and Europe.
However, the intelligence community has no evidence that Ukrainian leaders, including Zelensky, had any knowledge of or involvement in the sabotage of the pipeline, the source said.
The incident, in which underwater explosions occurred before the pipelines burst in several places, remains a major bone of contention between Russia and the West.
The pipelines connecting Russia and Germany across the Baltic Sea to pipe gas from Russia to the European Union were controversial long before the Kremlin went to war on Ukraine, largely because of fears of European dependence on Russian energy.
Their damage became yet another twist in the energy deadlock that erupted after the invasion as Europe sought to rid itself of Russian fuel.
Russia, which in the past has publicly denied involvement in hitting the pipelines and blamed the West for the explosions, also backtracked on the latest assessment that surfaced in the media.
A Kremlin spokesman described the report as a “clear disinformation campaign coordinated by the media”.
“It is clear that the authors of the attack want to divert attention. This is a blatant disinformation campaign coordinated by the media,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian state media RIA Novosti on Wednesday.
Several investigations by European authorities are ongoing.
Swedish prosecutors confirmed in November that the explosions on the pipelines were an act of sabotage after investigators found evidence of explosives at the sites, but their preliminary investigation had yet to determine any charges.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, the US National Security Council’s Coordinator for Strategic Communications, John Kirby, referred questions to the investigating European authorities and said he “would not prejudge that investigative work”.
“Several of our European partners – in fact three of them in Germany, Sweden and Denmark – have already opened investigations into what happened to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, and those investigations have not been closed. They’re still working on that,” Kirby said.
In the days following the incident, sightings of Russian ships in the area where the leaks occurred led to suspicions about Russia’s possible involvement. both the ability and motivation to deliberately damage the pipelines.
So far, no evidence has been presented to the public as to which parties are responsible.
At a meeting of G20 foreign ministers in New Delhi earlier this month, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov urged the need for a “fair and prompt investigation” into the explosions.