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Zelenskyy denies Ukraine involvement in Nord Stream pipeline blasts

Paul Ronzheimer is the deputy editor-in-chief of BILD and a senior journalist reporting for Axel Springer, the parent company of POLITICO

KYIV — Ukraine was not behind a series of underwater explosions that crippled the Nord Stream gas pipelines in September, the country’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said.

“I am president and I give orders accordingly,” Zelenskyy told Axel Springer, POLITICO’s parent company, in an interview in Kyiv. “Nothing of the sort has been done by Ukraine. I would never act that way.”

The denial comes after claims that Western intelligence agencies knew of a Ukrainian-backed plan to take out Nord Stream 1 and 2, which linked Europe’s energy infrastructure to Russia’s vast gas fields via pipelines running for more than 1,200 kilometers under the Baltic Sea. The motive would have been to prevent Russia from resuming its lucrative gas exports to the EU.

“I didn’t know anything, 100 percent,” Zelenskyy insisted. “I said, ‘Show us proof. If our military is supposed to have done this, show us proof.’”

According to leaked documents posted online, the U.S. had secret information that Ukraine was planning to attack the Baltic Sea gas links three months before they were severely damaged by underwater blasts on September 26, the Washington Post reported on Tuesday.

The alleged plan is said to have been identified by the security service of one of Washington’s European allies and was shared with the CIA last June. That communication was reportedly part of the tranche of classified intelligence shared on social media platform Discord by Jack Teixeira, a member of the U.S. Air National Guard who is now facing espionage charges.

The plotters were to report to the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Valerii Zaluzhnyi, the report said. 

The intelligence report found the plan was put on hold and there is no proof the attack was carried out by Ukraine.

Asked about the Washington Post report on Tuesday, White House National Security Coordinator John Kirby said that investigations were ongoing and that “the last thing that we’re going to want to do from this podium is get ahead of those investigations.”

Earlier media reports talked of a plan that resembles the alleged Ukrainian one, with a group of six people with forged passports renting a sailing boat that departed from a German port around the time of the blasts. The group reportedly had ties to a shell company created by Ukrainians; German investigators said the attack would have required aid from state security services.

Germany’s federal prosecutor confirmed a ship suspected of transporting explosives had been searched in January. Ukraine previously denied any involvement, dismissing the claims as “conspiracy theories.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks with Axel Springer’s Paul Ronzheimer for an exclusive interview in Kyiv | Photo by Giorgos Moutafis

Last month, a documentary by Nordic public broadcasters reported that Russian ships able to undertake subsea operations were also present near the explosion of the Nord Stream pipelines before the act of sabotage.

Nord Stream AG, the subsidiary of Russian state energy giant Gazprom that operates the pipelines, reported they had suffered “unprecedented” damage and leaked large volumes of gas.

The Nord Stream pipelines were designed to carry as much as 110 billion cubic meters of gas a year from Russia to Germany. The explosions disabled both strands of Nord Stream 1 and one strand of Nord Stream 2 — a project completed in September 2021 but which never pumped gas to Europe. It was shelved when Russia invaded Ukraine just five months later.

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