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Nearly six months after the subsea gas pipeline explosions that sent geopolitical shockwaves around the world in September, there is still no conclusive answer to the question of who blew up Nord Stream.
Some were quick to lay blame at Russia’s door, citing its record of hybrid warfare and a possible motive for intimidation, amid a bitter economic war with Europe over gas supplies.
But half a year has passed without any solid evidence for this – or any other explanation – by ongoing investigations by authorities in three European countries.
Since the day of the attack, four states – Russia, the US, Ukraine and the UK – have been publicly blamed for the blasts with varying degrees of evidence.
Still, some things are known for certain.
As was widely believed within hours of the explosion, the blaze was an act of deliberate sabotage. One of three investigations led by the Swedish Prosecution Authority, Confirmed In November, traces of explosives and several “foreign objects” were found at a seabed “crime scene” about 100 meters below the surface of the Baltic Sea, close to the Danish island of Bornholm.
Now two new media reports – from one new York TimesA joint investigation by the other German public broadcasters ARD and SWR, plus the newspaper die zeit – raised the possibility that a pro-Ukrainian group – though not necessarily state-backed – may be responsible. On Wednesday, the German prosecutor’s office confirmed it had searched a ship suspected of transporting explosives used in the sabotage in January, but was still investigating the seized items, the identity of the perpetrators and their possible motives .
In the information vacuum since September, various theories have emerged regarding the perpetrator and their motive:
Theory 1: Putin, the Energy Bully
In the days immediately following the attack, the working assumption of many analysts in the West was that it was a brazen act of intimidation on the part of Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin.
Mykhailo Podolić, an advisor to Volodymyr Zelensky, explained his hypothesis Twitter Feed on 27 September – a day after the explosions were first detected. He branded the event “nothing else [than] A terrorist attack planned by Russia and an act of aggression towards the European Union” is linked to Moscow’s determination to inflict a “pre-winter panic” over gas supplies to Europe.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki also hinted at Russian involvement. Russia denied responsibility.
Nord Stream Pipes is partially owned by Gazprom of Russia. The company had announced an “indefinite” shutdown of the Nord Stream 1 pipes, citing technical issues at the time of the explosions, which the European Union labeled a “misleading pretense”. Meanwhile, the new Nord Stream 2 pipes were never put into service. Within days of Gazprom announcing the shutdown in early September, Putin issued a veiled threat that Europe “freezeIf it sticks to its plan for energy sanctions against Russia.
But why blow up the pipeline if gas blackmail through shutdowns has already worked? Why eliminate the possibility of gas reflow?
Simone Tagliapietra, an energy expert and senior fellow at the Bruegel think tank, said it was possible that – if it were Russia – there could be internal divisions about any such decision. “At that point, when Putin basically decided to cut off the supply [gas to] Many people in Germany, Russia may be against it. It was a source of revenue. It is possible, Tagliapietra said, that “fanatics” decided to end the debate by dismantling the pipelines.
The blowing up of the Nord Stream, in this reading of the situation, was Russia’s final declaration of its intention to cut off Europe’s gas supplies indefinitely, as well as a demonstration of its hybrid warfare capabilities. Putin in October Said that the attack had shown that “any critical infrastructure in transport, energy or communication infrastructure is at risk – regardless of where in the world it is located” – words seen by many in the West as a coming threat .
Theory 2: The British Did It
From the outset, Russian leaders have insisted that either Ukraine or its Western allies were behind the attack. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov Said two days after the explosions that the allegation of Russian culpability was “quite predictable and predictably stupid”. He said that Moscow is not interested in blowing up the Nord Stream. “We have lost a route to supply gas to Europe.”
Then a month after the explosions, the Russian Ministry of Defense made the very specific allegation that “representatives of the UK Navy took part in planning, supporting and executing” the attack. No proof was given. Moscow said the same alleged British experts were also involved in helping Ukraine carry out a drone attack on Sevastopol in Crimea.
Britain’s Ministry of Defense said the “invented” allegations were intended to distract from Russia’s recent defeat on the battlefield. In any case, Moscow soon changed its tune.
Theory 3: US Black Ops
In February, with formal investigations in Germany, Sweden and Denmark still yet to report, a Article A new wave of speculation was started by American investigative journalist Seymour Hersh. Hersch’s allegation: The US military blew up the Nord Stream on direct orders from Joe Biden.
The accounts – based on a single source said to have “direct knowledge of the operational plan” – alleged that “an obscure deep-diving group in Panama City” was secretly planning to plant remote-detonated mines on pipelines. was assigned for. It suggested that Biden’s argument was to sever Russia’s gas links to Germany once and for all, ensuring that no amount of Kremlin blackmail could deter Berlin from continuing to support Ukraine.
Hersch’s article was also based on public comments by Biden when, in February 2022, shortly before Russia’s full-scale invasion, he Said told reporters that should Russia invade “there will no longer be Nord Stream 2. We will eliminate it.”
The White House described Hersh’s story as “completely false and completely imaginary”. The article certainly contained some questionable claims, not least that NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg “has cooperated with the US intelligence community since the Vietnam War.” Born in 1959, Stoltenberg was 16 when the war ended.
However, Russian leaders seized on the report, citing it as evidence UN Security Council Later in February calling for a UN-led investigation into further attacks, prompting Germany, Denmark and Sweden to issue a joint statement Saying that their investigation is going on.
Theory 4: Mystery Voyager
The latest clues – following reports from the New York Times and German media on Tuesday – center on a boat, six people with forged passports and the tiny Danish island of Christiano.
According to these reports, a boat operating from the German port of Rostock, then stopping in Christiansø, is at the center of the Nord Stream investigation.
Germany’s federal prosecutor confirmed on Wednesday that a ship suspected of transporting explosives was searched in January – and the 100 or so residents of the tiny Christian town told to Denmark tv2 That police had visited the island and made inquiries. Residents were invited to come forward with information through a post on the island’s Facebook page.
The New York Times and German media reports both suggested that intelligence was pointing to links to a pro-Ukrainian group, although there is no evidence that any orders came from the Ukrainian government and the identities of the alleged perpetrators are still unknown. Is.
Podolić, Zelensky’s advisor, Tweeted He was enjoying “collecting amusing conspiracy theories” about what happened to Nord Stream, but had “nothing to do” with Ukraine and “no knowledge of pro-Ukraine sabotage groups”. Was.”
Meanwhile, Germany’s Defense Minister Boris Pistorius warned against “jumping to conclusions” about the latest reports, saying it was possible there could be a “false flag” operation to blame Ukraine.
The Danish Security and Intelligence Service said only that their investigation was ongoing, while a spokesman for Sweden’s prosecuting authority said information would be shared when it became available – but there was “no timeline” on when the inquiry would be completed.
The mystery continues.