Putin ally says US, UK are sowing deception over Nord Stream blasts
By Guy Faulconbridge
MOSCOW (Reuters) – One of President Vladimir Putin’s key allies said on Monday that the United States and Britain are sowing deception that a pro-Ukrainian group blew up the Nord Stream gas pipelines at the bottom of the Baltic Sea last year.
Last week, the New York Times reported that intelligence verified by US officials indicated that a pro-Ukrainian group – likely composed of Ukrainians or Russians – had attacked the pipelines in September.
Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev questioned the report and questioned the ability of such a group to carry out such a daring act of sabotage of Russia’s key energy corridors to Europe.
“In an attempt to cover up the real people behind the crime, pro-government Anglo-Saxon media – on orders from above – have named a culprit – a group of Ukrainian terrorists,” Patrushev told the Argumenti i Fakti newspaper.
Russia, Patrushev said, still does not know exactly who was behind the attack because it was not involved in an investigation into the blasts.
“When newspapers eagerly claim that the sabotage was carried out by a group of Ukrainian terrorists, one has to ask whether such a group even exists and whether it is capable of doing it,” he said.
The United States and Britain, Patrushev said, have the ability to blow up such a pipeline. Both have vehemently denied this.
A former Soviet spy who has known Putin since the 1970s, Patrushev is considered by diplomats to be one of the key influences on Putin, who has accused the “Anglo-Saxons” of sabotaging Nord Stream in what he calls a terrorist attack.
On September 26, a sharp drop in pressure was registered in both pipelines and seismologists detected explosions. Swedish and Danish investigators have yet to determine who was responsible.
In a February blog post, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh quoted an unidentified source as saying US Navy divers had destroyed the pipelines with explosives on orders from President Joe Biden.
The White House dismissed Hersh’s report as “absolutely false and complete fiction.” Norway said the allegations were “nonsense”.
The Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 pipelines have a combined annual capacity of 110 billion cubic meters – more than half of Russia’s normal gas export volumes. Sections of the 1,224 km (760 miles) long pipelines, which run from Russia to Germany, lie at a depth of approximately 80 to 110 meters.
(Reported by Reuters; Edited by Mark Trevelyan)