US intelligence sees 'pro-Ukraine group' behind Nord Stream sabotage: report

The logo of Nord Stream AG is seen at an office building in the town of Vyborg, Leningrad Region, Russia, in August 2022. File picture: Anton Vaganov/REUTERS

The logo of Nord Stream AG is seen at an office building in the town of Vyborg, Leningrad Region, Russia, in August 2022. File picture: Anton Vaganov/REUTERS

Published Mar 7, 2023


Washington - US officials have seen new intelligence that indicates a "pro-Ukrainian group" was responsible for the sabotage last year of the Nord Stream gas pipelines, the New York Times reported on Tuesday.

In a cautious report that did not identify the source of the intelligence or the group involved, the Times said the US officials had no evidence implicating Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky in the pipeline bombing.

But the attack benefited Ukraine by severely damaging Russia's means of reaping millions by selling natural gas to Western Europe.

A photo taken on September 27, 2022, and released by the Danish Defence Command shows the gas leak at the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline as it is seen from the Danish Defence's F-16 rejection response off the Danish Baltic island of Bornholm, south of Dueodde. Picture: DANISH DEFENCE / AFP)

At the same time, it added to the pressure of high energy prices on key Ukrainian allies in Western Europe, particularly Germany.

The intelligence suggested the perpetrators behind the sabotage were "opponents of President Vladimir V Putin of Russia", the Times report said.

US officials had no indication of who exactly took part and who organised and paid for the operation, which would have required skilled divers and explosives experts.

They believed those involved were probably Ukrainian or Russian nationals, and that none were from the United States or Britain.

Rented yacht

German investigators believed the unidentified group were made up of five men and one woman using professionally falsified passports, according to a separate report by several German media.

German officials had identified the boat suspected to have been used in the attack, according to the broadcasters ARD, SWR and national weekly newspaper Zeit.

The yacht in question is said to have been rented out by a company based in Poland, belonging to two Ukrainians, per the German report, which referred only to sources in multiple countries.

The commando group are said to have set sail from the north German port of Rostock on September 6, 2022, and was localised the following day on the Danish island of Christianso in the Baltic.

The yacht was subsequently returned to the owner uncleaned, with investigators able to find traces of explosives on the table in the cabin, according to the detailed report.

The pipelines were ruptured by sub-sea explosives on September 26, seven months after Russian forces invaded Ukraine.

US officials have "no firm conclusions" about the intelligence, "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 said.

The lack of a firm suspect meant international intelligence officials had not ruled out the possibility of a "false flag" operation to link the attack to Ukraine, per the German media.


The authorities in Germany, Sweden and Denmark have opened probes into the incident.

A spokeswoman for the German government said it had "taken note" of the New York Times' report, referring back to the ongoing investigation.

"There is an ongoing preliminary investigation in Sweden, so I do not intend to comment on those reports," Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson told reporters late on Tuesday.

Speaking at the same press conference, Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg echoed the remarks, saying it would be "wrong to speculate" before the investigations were completed.

In February, veteran US investigative journalist Seymour Hersh reported that the United States was behind the operation to bomb the Nord Stream pipelines and that Norway assisted.

The White House blasted Hersh's report, which cited an unnamed source, as "complete fiction."


A senior aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Tuesday that Kyiv was "absolutely not involved" in last year's attacks on the Nord Stream pipelines and has no information about what happened.

"Without a doubt, Ukraine is absolutely not involved in the excesses on the pipelines," Mykhailo Podolyak said in a statement to Reuters. "It does not make the slightest bit of sense."

He added that Ukraine has no information about exactly who was involved but speculated that what he called Russian efforts to destabilise the region might have been to blame.

"Starting from the first day of construction on the pipelines at the bottom of the Baltic Sea, Ukraine repeatedly drew the attention of its Western partners to the sharply growing strategic risks for the security of Europe carried by the realisation of this project," Podolyak said.

Russia said on Tuesday that media reports about who might be behind last year's attacks on the Nord Stream pipelines underscored the need to answer Moscow's questions about what had happened.

However, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Western ‘regimes’ should respond to Russia’s queries about the incident rather than leaking information to the media, Reuters reported.

In a statement, Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said those responsible for leaks to the media wanted to divert the public's attention and avoid a proper investigation.

Meanwhile, Sputnik reported that the UN Security Council will vote this month on Russia's resolution requesting that a commission be set up to investigate the Nord Stream blasts, Russian Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Dmitry Polyanskiy said on Tuesday.