A pro-Ukrainian group carried out the attack on the Nord Stream pipelines last year, U.S. intelligence agencies determined, according to a bombshell report on Tuesday.
U.S. officials told The New York Times there no evidence Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky or his top officials were involved in September 2022 bombing, or that the group was acting at the direction of the Ukrainian government.
The Nord Stream natural gas pipelines link Russia to Western Europe, giving Moscow a direct route for its profitable natural gas business. The surprise attack damaged two of the pipelines – Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 – in the Danish part of the Baltic Sea.
In the outrage that followed, nearly every government found itself getting blamed: Russia, Germany, Ukraine, Poland, Britain, and the United States.
A satellite image shows gas from the Nord Stream pipeline bubbling up in the water following the bombing in Baltic Sea
Western allies blamed Russia, Moscow blamed the US and Britain. U.S. officials said no American or British nationals were involved.
White House spokesman John Kirby declined to comment on the report, saying Germany, Denmark and Sweden were still investigating the explosion, which he called ‘sabotage.’
‘There are three investigations going on right now. And they aren’t done. As far as I know, not none of none of those three countries have put out publicly what they’re what they’re finding,’ he told reporters in a briefing call on Tuesday.
Last month the White House denied a report that U.S. Navy divers planted remote-controlled explosives that destroyed parts of the pipeline.
Moscow had pointed the finger at the U.S. because of a comment President Biden made in early February 2022 – before Russia invaded Ukraine – that would bring Nord Stream ‘to an end’ should Russian troops and tanks enter its neighboring country.
Now U.S. intelligence officials say they believe the actual perpetrators were opponents of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
But the officials did not say what group was behind the attack, who directed it or who paid for it.
Officials also stressed their conclusions are not at 100%, leaving open the possibility that the operation might have been conducted off the books by a proxy force with connections to the Ukrainian government or its security services, The Times reported.
All of the four leaks are in the Baltic Sea off the Danish island of Bornholm. Two of the leaks were located in the Swedish exclusive economic zone, and the two others in the Danish one
This handout picture released on September 30, 2022 by the Danish Defence Command and taken on September 29, 2022 shows one of four gas leaks at one of the damaged Nord Stream gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea
The pipeline goes from Russia, into the ocean, and then to Germany
The facility at Lumbin, Germany, where the Nord Stream pipeline makes land again
Ukraine has long opposed the pipeline, which would easily bring Russian gas to European customers. Russia is one of the top three oil producers in the world. Moscow relies heavily on revenues from oil and natural gas, which in 2021 made up 45% of Russia’s federal budget.
At the time of the attack, the U.S. said called it sabotage.
The sophisticated attack took place under water, near the Danish island of Bornholm in the Baltic Sea.
Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2, as the two pipelines are called, stretch 760 miles from the northwest coast of Russia to Lubmin in northeast Germany.
The first cost more than $12 billion to build and was completed in 2011. It took 15 years to construct.
U.S. Officials said they don’t believe Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenksy’s government was involved
Both Swedish and Danish authorities investigated the four holes punctured in the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines from underwater attacks.
While the leaks were in international waters, two of them were in the Danish exclusive economic zone and two of them in the Swedish.
The pipelines have been at the center of geopolitical tensions as Russia cut gas supplies to Europe in suspected retaliation against Western sanctions over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
Although the pipelines were not in operation, they contained gas before falling victim to the apparent sabotage.