A pro-Ukrainian group carried out the attack on the Nord Stream pipeline using a yacht rented from Poland, new intelligence reviewed by Western governments suggests.
The two pipelines were blown up by deep-sea explosions last September in an attack that spewed gas into the Baltic Sea and was labelled by Nato as “an act of sabotages”.
The incident had been variously blamed on Moscow, Kyiv, and, in one more outlandish theory, the CIA – making it one of the most consequential unsolved mysteries of Russia’s year-old war in Ukraine.
However, leaks from a new intelligence review point the finger for the first time at opponents of Russian president Vladimir Putin.
The New York Times, quoting US officials, reported on Tuesday there was no indication president Volodymyr Zelensky or any of his aides ordered the operation.
‘Six-strong team’ carried out attack
The officials left open the possibility that it might have been conducted “off the books” by a proxy force with connections to the Ukrainian government or its security services.
German media, citing findings from the country’s investigative authorities, reported on Tuesday that the attack was likely carried out by a six-strong team, including a captain, two divers, two diving assistants and a doctor.
Their nationalities were not known and they were said to have used fake passports, according to the reporting by reputable outlets including ARD and Die Zeit.
“Officials who have reviewed the intelligence said they believed the saboteurs were most likely Ukrainian or Russian nationals, or some combination of the two. US officials said no American or British nationals were involved,” the Times report added.
The report refers to the group of saboteurs as “pro-Ukrainian” but does not specify whether its members are Ukrainian nationals.
The review “does not specify the members of the group, or who directed or paid for the operation”, according to the officials.
The operation began with a yacht rented in Poland by a company owned by two Ukrainians, according to the report.