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Nord Stream: Investigators link Ukrainian-owned yacht to sabotage, reports claim

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Ritzau/The Local - [email protected]
Nord Stream: Investigators link Ukrainian-owned yacht to sabotage, reports claim
Handout picture released by the Danish Defence Command showed what the gas leak looked like at the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. Photo: Danish Defence/AFP

German investigators have identified the boat they believe was used in the sabotage attack on the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines in the Baltic Sea, according to a report in the Die Zeit newspaper, based on a joint investigation with the broadcasters ARD and SWR. 

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According to the report, a group of five men and one woman rented the yacht from a Polish-based company with Ukrainian owners. The group all used false passports and their true nationalities are unknown.

Traces of explosives have been found on the yacht, which set sail from the German city of Rostock on September 6th, 20 days before the explosions, which destroyed the two pipelines at a point off the coast of Sweden and just south of the Danish island of Bornholm. 

"The traces lead in the direction of Ukraine," Die Zeit wrote in its article. "However, investigators have not yet found any evidence as to who ordered the destruction." 

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The newspaper said that, "according to its information", a western intelligence service had already tipped off its European partners in the autumn that a Ukrainian commando unit had been responsible for the attack, after which there had been "further intelligence indications that a pro-Ukrainian group" was behind the attack. 

In a separate report, the New York Times newspaper reported that US officials had seen new intelligence indicating a "pro-Ukrainian group" was responsible for the sabotage.

The Times report said US officials had no evidence implicating Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in the pipeline bombing, and it did not identify the source of the intelligence or the group involved.

The attack, the newspaper said, benefitted Ukraine by severely damaging Russia's ability to reap millions of dollars by selling natural gas to Western Europe. The intelligence suggested that the perpetrators behind the sabotage were "opponents of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia", the Times report said.

When confronted with the reports, Ukraine denied any involvement.

The country's presidential adviser Mychajlo Podoljak told ARD that Ukraine "of course had nothing to do with the attacks on Nord Stream-2". There was, he said, "no confirmation that Ukrainian officials or the military took part in this operation or that people were dispatched to act on their behalf."

It was still conceivable that Russia was behind it, he said. "There are many more motives and many more uses in this scenario." 

He later tweeted that Ukraine "has nothing to do with the Baltic Sea mishap". 

Dmitry Peskov, spokesperson for Russian president Vladimir Putin, claimed the reports had been fabricated by the true "authors of the attack” as a diversion. 

“How can American officials assume anything without an investigation?” he told the Ria news agency, complaining that Russia was not part of the investigation of this “monstrous crime”.

The Russian embassy in the US blamed the reports on US intelligence services, which it accused of “an attempt to confuse anyone who sincerely wishes to seek out the truth in this flagrant crime”

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