US Officials Offer Hint on Nord Stream Pipeline Attacks

Signs point to pro-Ukraine group, though details are murky and skepticism remains
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 8, 2023 8:55 AM CST
US Officials: Intel on Pipeline Attack Points to Pro-Ukraine Group
Pipes at the landfall facilities of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipline are seen in Lubmin, Germany, on Feb. 15, 2022.   (AP Photo/Michael Sohn, File)

Russia and Western nations have been pointing the finger at each other since last September, when a series of leaks sprung up in the Nord Stream pipelines in the Baltic Sea, carrying gas from Russia to Germany. Now, a possible clue toward solving what the New York Times calls "one of the most consequential unsolved mysteries of Russia's year-old war in Ukraine." US officials say intelligence they've reviewed leans toward a pro-Ukrainian group made up of Ukrainian or Russian nationals being behind the attack, though they note that there's no indication Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky or any of his inner circle had a hand in the sabotage, or that the saboteurs carried out the act under orders from the Ukrainian government.

A second report in German newspaper Die Zeit cites multiple unidentified officials as saying a yacht used in the attack was rented from a company registered in Poland and owned by two Ukrainians. Ukraine, for its part, is denying the reports. In a tweet, Zelensky senior adviser Mykhailo Podolyak scoffs at "conspiracy theories" and insists Ukraine "has nothing to do with the Baltic Sea mishap and has no information" about any pro-Ukrainian "sabotage groups." "What happened to the Nord Stream pipelines? 'They sank,' as they say in RF itself," he adds. He tells NPR that both reports contained "lots of assumptions and anonymous conjecture but not real facts," and that Ukraine being behind an attack on the pipelines would be "absolutely devoid of tactical sense" in terms of affecting the course of the war.

European officials who've publicly weighed in say they believe the attack against the Nord Stream pipelines was state sponsored, since the operation was carried off without detection. US officials haven't publicly said they believe it was a state-sponsored attack, and those "who have been briefed on the intelligence are divided about how much weight to put on the new information," per the Times. Meanwhile, German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius says he has read the reports with "great interest," but he's urging caution in making any definitive calls. "We need to clearly differentiate whether it was a Ukrainian group that acted on the orders of Ukraine or ... without the government's knowledge," he told reporters Wednesday, per the AP. "I'm refraining from drawing premature conclusions." Much more here on all of the accusations flying back and forth, and here on skepticism about the reports. (More pipelines stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.