Russian President Vladimir Putin has dismissed allegations that Ukrainians could be behind the explosions that crippled the Nord Stream gas pipelines as “pure nonsense”, suggesting the United States may be responsible.
The Russian leader insisted on Tuesday that the US had motive for carrying out last year’s attack in the Baltic Sea, saying it wanted to cut off supplies of cheap Russian natural gas to Europe and supply the continent with more expensive liquefied natural gas.
“Who is interested? Theoretically, the United States is interested in stopping supplies of Russian energy to the European market and supplying its own volumes,” Putin told an interviewer.
“Such an explosion, so powerful and at such depth, can only be carried out by experts backed by the full potential of a state that has relevant technologies,” he added.
Putin was speaking after The New York Times, The Washington Post and German media published stories last week citing unidentified US and other officials who said there was evidence that Ukraine — or at least “pro-Ukrainian groups” — may be responsible. were before the explosions. The Ukrainian government denied involvement.
The German newspaper Die Zeit and German public broadcasters ARD and SWR reported that investigators believe five men and a woman used a yacht chartered by a Ukrainian company in Poland to carry out the attack. German federal prosecutors have confirmed that a boat was searched in January, but have not confirmed the reported findings.
The Kremlin last week described claims of Ukrainian involvement in the explosions as part of a cover-up by the West.
Putin said the blasts were carried out at the “state level” and dismissed as “complete nonsense,” suggesting that an autonomous pro-Ukrainian group was responsible.
Germany’s response to the explosions showed that decades after its surrender at the end of World War II, the country remained “occupied” and unable to act independently, Putin said.
“Germany has never been a fully sovereign state,” Russian news agencies quoted the Russian leader as telling state-owned Rossiya-1 TV.
“The Soviet Union at one point withdrew its troops and ended what amounted to an occupation of the country. But, as we know, that was not the case with the Americans. They continue to occupy Germany.”
The Nord Stream pipelines were intended to bring Russian gas to Germany, although Berlin has taken steps to reduce its dependence on Russian hydrocarbons since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine a year ago.
Leaders in Berlin have been cautious about assigning blame for the explosions, with Defense Minister Boris Pistorius last week saying the blasts could have been a “false flag operation to blame Ukraine”.
Putin also expressed contempt for European leaders for keeping quiet about the incident, saying their attitude reflected what he described as Europe’s submissive position in relations with the US.
“The Europeans have lost a gene of independence, sovereignty and national interest,” Putin said with a grin. “The more they (Americans) hit them on the nose or the top of their head, the lower they bend and the wider they smile.”
Massive emissions of methane gas
The September explosions that hit the Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 pipelines rendered them useless and caused significant leaks of methane gas.
According to the United Nations Environment Programme, the leaks in the Baltic Sea have led to what is probably the largest ever emission of climate-damaging methane.
Western countries, including Germany, have said they believe the blasts were a deliberate act, but declined to say who they believe was responsible.
US officials initially suggested Russia may be to blame. Russia blamed the US and Britain. Studies by European countries, including Denmark, whose waters the pipeline runs through, and Germany, have yet to yield definitive results.
Putin expressed regret that Russia was denied access to the materials of the investigation. He added that Russian gas giant Gazprom has sent a ship to check the seabed near the explosion and spotted what appeared to be an antenna near an intersection between the pipes, about 30 km (16 nautical miles) away. of the explosion site.
Putin claimed that the antenna could have been placed on the seabed to activate another explosive device that failed to detonate for an as-yet-unclear reason. He added that Russia expects Danish authorities to form a joint team to thoroughly monitor the area.
In a blog post Last month, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter Seymour Hersh quoted an anonymous source with “direct knowledge of operational planning” as saying that the operation to blow up the pipelines was carried out by the US military and CIA – with direct approval from the US President Joe pray.
The White House dismissed Hersh’s report as “utterly false and complete fiction.