By Frank Jordans | Associated Press
BERLIN — Germany’s defense minister voiced caution Wednesday over media reports that a pro-Ukraine group was involved in blowing up the Nord Stream gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea last year.
German daily newspaper Die Zeit and public broadcasters ARD and SWR reported Tuesday that investigators were able to largely reconstruct how the pipelines from Russia to Germany were sabotaged on the night of Sept. 26, 2022.
Citing multiple unnamed officials, the news outlets reported that five men and a woman used a yacht hired by a Ukrainian-owned company in Poland to carry out the attack. German federal prosecutors confirmed that a boat was searched in January.
The New York Times also reported Tuesday that U.S. officials reviewed intelligence that suggested a pro-Ukrainian group was behind the blasts. The Ukrainian government has denied involvement.
German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said he read the news reports “with great interest” but warned against drawing hasty conclusions.
“We need to clearly differentiate whether it was a Ukrainian group that acted on the orders of Ukraine or … without the government’s knowledge,” he told reporters in Stockholm.
Speaking on the sidelines of a European Union defense ministers meeting, Pistorius said some experts also had raised the possibility of a so-called false flag operation by a group pretending to be Ukrainian.
“It would not be the first time in the history of such events,” the German minister said. “As such, I’m refraining from drawing premature conclusions.”
Asked whether the reports could undermine Western support for Ukraine, Pistorius said he preferred to respond once he had reliable information. “Anything else is hypothetical,” he added.
Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov rejected suggestions that the attack might have been ordered by Kyiv. “It’s like a compliment for our special forces, but this is not our activity,” he told reporters in Stockholm.
According to the German media reports, the suspects used forged passports when hiring the boat, which set off from the German port of Rostock. A captain, two divers, two diving assistants and a doctor made up the group, ARD reported.
Germany’s Federal Prosecutors Office declined to comment directly on the reports. But it confirmed that investigators conducted a search from Jan. 18-20 “in connection with a suspicious boat hire.”
“There is a suspicion that the boat in question could have been to transport explosive devices that exploded on Sept. 26, 2022, on the Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 pipelines,” the prosecutors office …read more
Source:: The Mercury News