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7 Mar, 2023 16:15

US spies say ‘pro-Ukrainian group’ bombed Nord Stream – NYT

Anonymous agents cited unspecified intelligence to deny US responsibility for the pipeline attack
US spies say ‘pro-Ukrainian group’ bombed Nord Stream – NYT

Unspecified new intelligence “suggests that a pro-Ukrianian group” was behind the September 2022 attack on Nord Stream pipelines, the New York Times reported on Tuesday, quoting anonymous US officials. 

The Times’ unnamed sources said they “believed the saboteurs were most likely Ukrainian or Russian nationals, or some combination of the two” and that “no American or British nationals were involved.” They further said they had no evidence Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky or his “top lieutenants” were involved, or that the “any Ukrainian government officials” directed the attack.

The anonymous officials could not say who directed or paid for the “operation,” and said it was possible the attack “might have been conducted off the books by a proxy force with connections to the Ukrainian government or its security services.” 

The bombs that tore apart three of four pipeline strings at the bottom of the Baltic Sea were “most likely” planted by experienced divers, “who did not appear to be working for military or intelligence services,” but may have received “specialized government training in the past,” the anonymous officials claimed. 

They also said US President Joe Biden and his top aides “did not authorize” the attack on Nord Stream and that “there was no US involvement” in the blasts. These statements directly address last month’s report by investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, who accused the US of ordering the bombing and planting the explosives.

While Western European officials also believe the attack was state-sponsored,  “US officials have not stated publicly that they believe the operation was sponsored by a state,” the Times noted. 

Some officials see “Ukraine and its allies” as having “the most logical potential motive” to destroy the pipelines. It was unclear who they meant by allies; though Poland has been the most outspoken critic of Nord Stream, the US and the entire NATO bloc have sent more than $100 billion worth of weapons and other aid to Kiev over the past year.

“Any findings that put blame on Kyiv or Ukrainian proxies could prompt a backlash in Europe and make it harder for the West to maintain a united front in support of Ukraine,” the Times reporters noted.

The Nord Stream explosions happened five weeks after the Moscow car bombing that killed Russian journalist Darya Dugina. Anonymous US spies told the Times last October they believed “elements” within the Ukrainian government – but not Zelensky – were responsible, but declined to name anyone. Kiev has officially denied any responsibility whatsoever.

“After the Nord Stream operation, there was hushed speculation – and worry – in Washington that parts of the Ukrainian government might have been involved in that operation as well,” the Times reported on Tuesday.

The anonymous officials who spoke to the paper said there was “no evidence so far” the Ukrainian government was involved, and that President Joe Biden’s trust in Zelensky “has been steadily increasing.” The Times did acknowledge that American intelligence has “limited visibility into Ukrainian decision-making,” despite Kiev’s “deep dependence” on the US.