(CN) — American and European officials say there is evidence a pro-Ukrainian saboteur group blew up the Nord Stream pipelines last September in an effort to hurt Russia, according to American and German news reports.
On Wednesday, Ukraine's government denied any involvement or knowledge of the attack.
Mykhailo Podolyak, a senior adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenksyy, said on Twitter that Ukraine “has nothing to do with the Baltic Sea mishap” and has no information about “pro-Ukrainian sabotage groups.”
The New York Times and German media reported on Tuesday and Wednesday that investigators believe a pro-Ukrainian group was behind the sabotage. But the news reports provided few details and were based on anonymous sources.
These news reports came exactly one month after American investigative journalist Seymour Hersh wrote a piece based on anonymous sources that alleged the sabotage was carried out by the U.S. military upon the orders of President Joe Biden.
American officials told the New York Times that no American or British nationals were involved in the attack and that Washington was not aware of the operation. The U.S. has said it has not found any evidence Russia was involved.
On the night of Sept. 26, 2022, three of the four pipelines that make up Nord Stream 1 and 2 were ripped apart by powerful explosions. The pipelines cross the Baltic Sea and bring Russian gas directly to Germany.
Starting in the late 1990s, Russian gas giant Gazprom, along with European companies and banks, constructed the pipelines to lower the cost of gas for European consumers. The Kremlin liked the new lines because they made old Soviet pipelines crossing Ukraine that it used to ship gas to Western Europe obsolete. Russia and Ukraine have long argued over transit fees for Russian gas and Moscow built new pipelines to bypass Ukraine.
But the Nord Stream pipelines were a source of controversy with the Kremlin's fiercest critics – the U.S., Poland, Ukraine, the Baltic States – alleging they made Germany dangerously dependent on Russian gas and that Moscow could use them to blackmail Berlin.
There are obvious reasons for both Ukraine and the U.S. to have wanted to see the Nord Stream pipelines taken out. In 2019, the U.S. tried to stop the completion of construction of Nord Stream 2 through sanctions.
Early last year, Biden said after meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz at the White House that the U.S. would put an end to the Nord Stream 2 if Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an invasion of Ukraine.
“If Russia invades, that means tanks and troops crossing the border of Ukraine again, then there will be no longer a Nord Stream 2,” Biden said. “We will bring an end to it.”
When a reporter asked how that would be done, Biden said: “I promise you we’ll be able to do it.”
German media reported that German investigators believe the attack was carried out by a team of divers who carried explosives aboard a Ukrainian-owned yacht rented in Poland and then planted the explosives on the pipelines.
German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said it was too early to know who was responsible, according to the reports.
At the United Nations, Russia has called for an investigation and blamed Western countries for the sabotage. On Wednesday, the Kremlin accused the West of using “controlled leaks” to cover up who carried out the sabotage.
“Washington and London follow the beaten path of using controlled leaks in this matter, shaping up the agenda that suits them,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said, according to Tass, a Russian state news agency. “But the truth will come out, I’m sure.”
Courthouse News reporter Cain Burdeau is based in the European Union.
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