08 Mar 2023, 13:30
Julian Wettengel

German govt stays cautious on media reports on Nord Stream sabotage

NY Times / ZEIT, ARD, SWR / Dlf

German defence minister Boris Pistorius has reacted cautiously to media reports that a pro-Ukrainian group could be behind the attack on the Nord Stream natural gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea last year. “I take note of [the media reports] with great interest, but we have to wait and see what is confirmed,” Pistorius told public broadcaster Deutschlandfunk. He added that there is also the possibility of a “false flag operation” where the blame is put on one group, but responsibility lies with someone else. “It is much more important that we do everything possible on the part of the neighbouring countries in conjunction with NATO to better protect the critical infrastructure,” he added.

Several German and international media have cited intelligence reports that a pro-Ukrainian group sabotaged the pipelines in 2022, damaging three of the four strings. The New York Times wrote that U.S. officials had no evidence President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine or his top lieutenants were involved in the operation, or that the perpetrators were acting at the direction of Ukrainian government officials. However, the newspaper wrote that “any suggestion of Ukrainian involvement, whether direct or indirect, could upset the delicate relationship between Ukraine and Germany, souring support among a German public that has swallowed high energy prices in the name of solidarity.”

According to reports by German public broadcasters ARD and SWR as well as newspaper ZEIT, investigators have identified a yacht, which was presumably used for the operation – traces of explosives were found on a table. The yacht was rented by a company, which belongs to two Ukrainians. A six-person team with unknown nationalities started the operation on 6 September 2022 from the eastern German port of Rostock, but investigators have so far not found out who was behind the sabotage, writes ZEIT.

The Nord Stream gas pipeline and its more controversial sister Nord Stream 2 (NS2) have become the symbol of Germany’s widely criticised energy and security policy, which sought to build political bridges through trade and at the same time supply companies with cheap fuel. However, it drove the country into a fatal dependence on Russian oil and gas. On 26 September 2022, several underwater explosions destroyed large parts of the Nord Stream 1 twin pipelines, and also of one section of NS2. The second line was reportedly undamaged. Swedish authorities later confirmed this was sabotage, yet it remains unclear who was responsible.

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