Intelligence Suggests Pro-Ukrainian Group Sabotaged Pipelines, U.S. Officials Say

WASHINGTON — New intelligence reviewed by U.S. officers suggests {that a} pro-Ukrainian group carried out the assault on the Nord Stream pipelines final yr, a step towards figuring out duty for an act of sabotage that has confounded investigators on either side of the Atlantic for months.

U.S. officers mentioned that that they had no proof President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine or his high lieutenants had been concerned within the operation, or that the perpetrators had been appearing on the route of any Ukrainian authorities officers.

The brazen assault on the pure fuel pipelines, which link Russia to Western Europe, fueled public hypothesis about who was in charge, from Moscow to Kyiv and London to Washington, and it has remained one of the crucial consequential unsolved mysteries of Russia’s year-old struggle in Ukraine.

Ukraine and its allies have been seen by some officers as having essentially the most logical potential motive to assault the pipelines. They have opposed the challenge for years, calling it a nationwide safety menace as a result of it will permit Russia to promote fuel extra simply to Europe.

Ukrainian authorities and army intelligence officers say that they had no position within the assault and have no idea who carried it out. After this text was revealed, Mykhailo Podolyak, a senior adviser to Mr. Zelensky, posted on Twitter that Ukraine “has nothing to do with the Baltic Sea mishap.” He added that he had no details about pro-Ukrainian “sabotage groups.”

U.S. officers mentioned there was a lot they didn’t know in regards to the perpetrators and their affiliations. The evaluation of newly collected intelligence suggests they had been opponents of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, however doesn’t specify the members of the group, or who directed or paid for the operation.

U.S. officers declined to reveal the character of the intelligence, the way it was obtained or any particulars of the strength of the proof it comprises. They have mentioned that there are not any firm conclusions about it, leaving open the likelihood that the operation might need been performed off the books by a proxy pressure with connections to the Ukrainian authorities or its safety companies.

Some preliminary U.S. and European hypothesis centered on potential Russian culpability, particularly given its prowess in undersea operations, although it’s unclear what motivation the Kremlin would have in sabotaging the pipelines provided that they’ve been an vital income and a method for Moscow to exert affect over Europe. One estimate put the price of repairing the pipelines beginning at about $500 million. U.S. officers say they haven’t discovered any proof of involvement by the Russian authorities within the assault.

Officials who’ve reviewed the intelligence mentioned they believed the saboteurs had been most certainly Ukrainian or Russian nationals, or some mixture of the 2. U.S. officers mentioned no American or British nationals had been concerned.

The pipelines had been ripped aside by deep sea explosions in September, in what U.S. officers described on the time as an act of sabotage. European officers have publicly mentioned they imagine the operation that focused Nord Stream was most likely state sponsored, presumably due to the sophistication with which the perpetrators planted and detonated the explosives on the ground of the Baltic Sea with out being detected. U.S. officers haven’t said publicly that they imagine the operation was sponsored by a state.

The explosives had been most certainly planted with the assistance of skilled divers who didn’t look like working for army or intelligence companies, U.S. officers who’ve reviewed the brand new intelligence mentioned. But it’s potential that the perpetrators obtained specialised authorities training prior to now.

Officials mentioned there have been nonetheless monumental gaps in what U.S. spy businesses and their European companions knew about what transpired. But officers mentioned it would represent the primary vital result in emerge from a number of intently guarded investigations, the conclusions of which might have profound implications for the coalition supporting Ukraine.

Any suggestion of Ukrainian involvement, whether or not direct or oblique, might upset the fragile relationship between Ukraine and Germany, souring help amongst a German public that has swallowed high vitality costs within the identify of solidarity.

U.S. officers who’ve been briefed on the intelligence are divided about how a lot weight to placed on the brand new info. All of them spoke on situation of anonymity to debate labeled intelligence and issues of delicate diplomacy.

U.S. officers mentioned the brand new intelligence reporting has elevated their optimism that American spy businesses and their companions in Europe can discover extra info, which might permit them to achieve a firm conclusion in regards to the perpetrators. It is unclear how lengthy that course of will take. American officers just lately mentioned the intelligence with their European counterparts, who’ve taken the lead in investigating the assault.

A spokeswoman for the C.I.A. declined to remark. A spokesman for the White House’s National Security Council referred questions in regards to the pipelines to the European authorities, who’ve been conducting their very own investigations.

Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2, as the 2 pipelines are recognized, stretch 760 miles from the northwest coast of Russia to Lubmin in northeast Germany. The first price greater than $12 billion to construct and was accomplished in 2011.

Nord Stream 2 price barely lower than the primary pipeline and was accomplished in 2021, over objections from officers within the United States, Britain, Poland and Ukraine, amongst others, who warned that it will enhance German reliance on Russian fuel. During a future diplomatic disaster between the West and Russia, these officers argued, Moscow might blackmail Berlin by threatening to curtail fuel provides, on which the Germans had depended closely, particularly through the winter months. (Germany has weaned itself off reliance on Russian fuel over the previous yr.)

Early final yr, President Biden, after assembly with Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany on the White House, mentioned Mr. Putin’s choice about whether or not to assault Ukraine would decide the destiny of Nord Stream 2. “If Russia invades, that means tanks and troops crossing the border of Ukraine again, then there will be no longer a Nord Stream 2,” Mr. Biden mentioned. “We will bring an end to it.”

What we think about earlier than utilizing nameless sources. Do the sources know the knowledge? What’s their motivation for telling us? Have they proved dependable prior to now? Can we corroborate the knowledge? Even with these questions glad, The Times makes use of nameless sources as a final resort. The reporter and at the very least one editor know the identification of the supply.

When asked precisely how that may be completed, Mr. Biden cryptically mentioned, “I promise you we’ll be able to do it.”

Since the explosions alongside the pipelines in September, there was rampant hypothesis about what transpired on the ocean ground close to the Danish island of Bornholm.

Poland and Ukraine instantly accused Russia of planting the explosives, however they provided no proof.

Russia, in flip, accused Britain of finishing up the operation — additionally with out proof. Russia and Britain have denied any involvement within the explosions.

Last month, the investigative journalist Seymour Hersh revealed an article on the publication platform Substack concluding that the United States carried out the operation on the route of Mr. Biden. In making his case, Mr. Hersh cited the president’s preinvasion menace to “bring an end” to Nord Stream 2, and comparable statements by different senior U.S. officers.

U.S. officers say Mr. Biden and his high aides didn’t authorize a mission to destroy the Nord Stream pipelines, and so they say there was no U.S. involvement.

Any findings that put blame on Kyiv or Ukrainian proxies might immediate a backlash in Europe and make it more durable for the West to take care of a united entrance in help of Ukraine.

U.S. officers and intelligence businesses acknowledge that they’ve restricted visibility into Ukrainian decision-making.

Despite Ukraine’s deep dependence on the United States for army, intelligence and diplomatic help, Ukrainian officers should not all the time clear with their American counterparts about their army operations, particularly these in opposition to Russian targets behind enemy traces. Those operations have annoyed U.S. officers, who imagine that they haven’t measurably improved Ukraine’s place on the battlefield, however have risked alienating European allies and widening the struggle.

The operations which have unnerved the United States included a strike in early August on Russia’s Saki Air Base on the western coast of Crimea, a truck bombing in October that destroyed a part of the Kerch Strait Bridge, which hyperlinks Russia to Crimea, and drone strikes in December aimed toward Russian army bases in Ryazan and Engels, about 300 miles past the Ukrainian border.

But there have been different acts of sabotage and violence of extra ambiguous provenance that U.S. intelligence businesses have had a more durable time attributing to Ukrainian safety companies.

One of these was a automobile bomb close to Moscow in August that killed Daria Dugina, the daughter of a distinguished Russian nationalist.

Kyiv denied any involvement however U.S. intelligence businesses finally got here to imagine that the killing was approved by what officers known as “elements” of the Ukrainian authorities. In response to the discovering, the Biden administration privately rebuked the Ukrainians and warned them in opposition to taking comparable actions.

The explosions that ruptured the Nord Stream pipelines occurred 5 weeks after Ms. Dugina’s killing. After the Nord Stream operation, there was hushed hypothesis — and fear — in Washington that components of the Ukrainian authorities might need been concerned in that operation as effectively.

The new intelligence offered no proof to this point of the Ukrainian authorities’s complicity within the assault on the pipelines, and U.S. officers say the Biden administration’s stage of belief in Mr. Zelensky and his senior nationwide safety workforce has been steadily rising.

Days after the explosion, Denmark, Sweden and Germany started their very own separate investigations into the Nord Stream operation.

Intelligence and regulation enforcement businesses on either side of the Atlantic have had issue acquiring concrete proof about what occurred on the ocean ground within the hours, days and weeks earlier than the explosions.

The pipelines themselves weren’t intently monitored, by both business or authorities sensors. Moreover, discovering the vessel or vessels concerned has been difficult by the truth that the explosions occurred in a closely trafficked space.

That mentioned, investigators have many results in pursue.

According to a European lawmaker briefed late final yr by his nation’s major international intelligence service, investigators have been gathering details about an estimated 45 “ghost ships” whose location transponders weren’t on or weren’t working after they handed by way of the realm, presumably to cloak their actions.

The lawmaker was additionally informed that greater than 1,000 kilos of “military grade” explosives had been utilized by the perpetrators.

Spokespeople for the Danish authorities had no speedy remark. Spokespeople for the German authorities declined to remark.

Mats Ljungqvist, a senior prosecutor main Sweden’s investigation, informed The New York Times late final month that his nation’s hunt for the perpetrators was persevering with.

“It’s my job to find those who blew up Nord Stream. To help me, I have our country’s Security Service,” Mr. Ljungqvist mentioned. “Do I think it was Russia that blew up Nord Stream? I never thought so. It’s not logical. But as in the case of a murder, you have to be open to all possibilities.”

Reporting was contributed by Rebecca R. Ruiz, Erika Solomon, Melissa Eddy, Michael Schwirtz and Andrew E. Kramer.

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