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The underwater bombing of the Nord Stream gas pipelines last September was carried out by a team of divers operating from a 15-meter chartered yacht called the Andromeda, according to a new report.
The report in Der Spiegel traces the Andromeda’s route around the Baltic from its home marina in Rostock on September 6 to the German island of Rügen and then finally to the Danish island of Christiansø, close to the site of the blasts on September 26.
Experts have questioned whether the amount of explosives used in the sabotage attacks, estimated to be several hundred kilograms, as well as with the necessary breathing apparatus and other equipment could have been carried on such a small boat, raising the question of whether another vessel was involved .
Der Spiegel said that one of the six-person crew on the Andromeda was using a forged Bulgarian passport, but the German investigators have yet to identify the nationality of the bombers, or attribute responsibility to any government. A New York Times report this week cited intelligence sources as saying a pro-Ukrainian group was involved, but German authorities have warned about the possibility of a “false-flag” operation in which misleading clues are left deliberately to point in the wrong direction.
The Ukrainian government has denied any involvement in the attack on the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines, which were built to transport natural gas from Russia to Germany, and are majority-owned by the Russian state-owned company Gazprom. They were not operational at the time of the attack, which came seven months after Vladimir Putin’s all-out invasion of Ukraine, but they were filled with gas, which bubbled to the surface, creating a wide area of visible turbulence.
The Spiegel quotes a harbor master in Rügen as saying the group that hired the Andromeda were dressed like normal sailors, and that he saw them carrying shopping bags of provisions to the boat, speaking a language that “sounded Polish or Czech to him”. He said there were several men and a woman.
The Andromeda is a Bavaria C50, a sailing boat made by a German company, Bavaria Yachts. It has five cabins and room for up to 11 people. It has a platform at the back to dive from.
At the site of the blasts, the Baltic Sea is about 80 meters deep, requiring specialist diving skills and special air tanks, one with a helium-oxygen mixture and one with pure oxygen, the Spiegel report said.
Each dive would have required the boat to be over the pipeline for about three hours. To have laid explosives on two pipelines 4km apart would probably have required four dives over a few days.
Diving experts say such extended deep dives would have required a decompression chamber for the divers, which would not fit on a yacht. There are also questions on whether there would be room for the required explosives. The Danish and Swedish governments have said that the blasts were equivalent to the power of “several hundred kilograms of explosive”. Some experts say up to 2000kg would have been needed.
“We have been presented a piece of a puzzle. However, we don’t know how big the puzzle is. Is it 50 pieces, 500 or 5,000 pieces?” said Christian Mölling, the head of the center for security and defense at the German Council on Foreign Relations.
“Was there a second boat and did somebody transport the explosive from somewhere else?” Molling asked. “So that’s why I think there are pieces of the puzzle missing for the moment.”
The chair of the Bundestag’s intelligence oversight committee, Konstantin von Notz, has warned the press “to be as cautious as possible with any conclusions at this point in time”.
He told Die Zeit the investigation was “very likely to be dealing with a state or quasi-state actor because it is very demanding to transport large quantities of explosives – up to two tons are now being discussed – undetected to the right place in the Baltic Sea, to transport them into a relevant depth in order to trigger several explosions in a controlled manner”.
He said a “state-backed act of terrorism makes it more likely that false or deceptive clues were laid”.
The German public prosecutor’s office has said that a boat had been searched between 18 and 20 January over “suspicions it could have been used to transport explosive devices that exploded on 26 September 2022”.
Divers used chartered yacht to sabotage Nord Stream pipelines – report
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