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Officials believe pro-Ukraine group may have sabotaged Nord Stream – reports



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European and US intelligence officials have obtained tentative intelligence to suggest a pro-Ukrainian saboteur group may have been behind the bombing of the Nord Stream gas pipelines last year, according to reports in the New York Times and German newspaper Die Zeit.

German investigators believe the attack on the pipelines was carried out by a team of six people, using a yacht that had been hired by a company registered in Poland and owned by two Ukrainian citizens, according to Die Zeit.

The information has been shared between European intelligence agencies in an effort to establish more information about those who carried out the underwater bombings in September, an attack that had left western governments perplexed.

Details about the intelligence remain sketchy and it is unclear what confidence the US intelligence community places in the theory, as well as who may have organized, funded and directed such a daring attack on the gas pipelines running between Russia and Germany. But it is suggested that the government of Kyiv did not direct the underwater strike.

Russia said it wanted an independent international inquiry to be set up in response to the report. Its deputy envoy to the UN said Moscow would call for a vote at the UN security council on whether to launch one.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the RIA state news agency on Wednesday dismissed the US reports as a coordinated effort by “the authors of the attack” to divert attention.

“How can American officials assume anything without an investigation?” said Peskov, adding that Russia was still not allowed to be part of the investigation into the “monstrous crime”.

Russia’s embassy to the United States said on Wednesday that leaks from US intelligence services were “no more than an attempt to confuse anyone who sincerely wishes to seek out the truth in this flagrant crime”.

It added: “It is simply a means of shifting suspicion from those in official government positions who ordered and coordinated the attacks in the Baltic Sea on to abstract individuals of some sort.”

A senior aide to Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, told the Guardian the government in Kyiv was “in no way involved in the attack”, which he said had no military impact on Russian forces.

“In the midst of a war… Ukraine and its allies would definitely not spend resources on something that would not bring us victory directly on the battlefield. It doesn’t make any sense. But it is extremely beneficial for Russia itself to try to switch attention from the war … and try to present itself as a kind of ‘victim’,” he said.

The attack took place in international waters in the Baltic Sea, near the Danish island of Bornholm, with large amounts of gas rising from the sea floor.

Nord Stream pipeline damage captured in underwater footage – video

The prevailing theory at the time of the attack was that the bombing was the work of Russia, seeking to blame the west, but there have been doubts about whether Moscow would want to destroy its own expensively built infrastructure, even if the flow of gas had was stopped by the time of the attack.

While investigators had been able to largely reconstruct how the pipelines had been blown up, Die Zeit’s report said, they had not found any evidence as to who would have tasked the group to carry out an attack, with a “false flag” operation still a theoretical possibility.

Six people were involved in the operation to transport explosives to the site, including the yacht’s captain, two divers, two diving assistants and a doctor. All six were understood to have used professionally faked passports, said Die Zeit, with their real identities still unclear.

The yacht set sail from the German port city of Rostock on September 6. The equipment for the secret operation was previously transported to the port in a delivery truck, according to Die Zeit. After its return, investigators found traces of explosives on one of the tables inside the hired vessel.

Russia has repeatedly denied carrying out the bombing, even at one point blaming the UK, although there is no evidence of British involvement. A month ago, the US investigative journalist Seymour Hersh wrote an article saying the US had blown up the pipes – a claim denied by the US.

Speculation about US involvement has lingered because, just before Putin invaded Ukraine, Joe Biden cryptically claimed “there will be no longer a Nord Stream 2” if war were to break out. “We will bring an end to it,” he said, adding: “I promise you we’ll be able to do it.”

The German government said its own investigation has not yet reached a conclusion. Sweden, Denmark and Germany informed the security council a few days ago that their investigations were continuing and that there were still no results, a German government spokesperson said.

Reactions in Germany to Tuesday’s unconfirmed reports were cautious

“My impression from previous conversations is that the German investigators do not yet have any results that they can or want to communicate, simply because the evidence is far too thin,” said Roderich Kiesewetter, of the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

“We have to continue to ask the question: who had an interest in the detonation, why were only three of the four strands detonated, and who is benefiting from the very uncertainty, speculation, an accusations?” he added.

White House spokesperson John Kirby said: “We need to let these investigations conclude and only then should we be looking at what follow-on actions might or might not be appropriate.”

The Nord Stream gas pipelines connected Russia and Germany and were long opposed by Ukraine as they would have let Moscow sell more gas to western Europe. Gazprom representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

It is not the first time pro-Ukrainian groups have been suspected of carrying out a major attack. US intelligence has come to believe that the car bombing of Darya Dugina in Moscow last August was conducted by partisans working for “elements” of the government in Kyiv.

A former Russian MP described that attack as the work of a little-known group called the National Republican Army, which he said was composed of Russian partisans. Its primary target was believed to be not Dugina, but her father, the Russian nationalist Alexander Dugin, but he switched vehicles at the last moment.

Officials believe pro-Ukraine group may have sabotaged Nord Stream – reports

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