Report Links Ukrainian Spy to Nord Stream Pipeline Attacks

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14-Nov-2023

In partnership with the Washington Post, German outlet Der Spiegel claims that it has uncovered evidence linking a well-known Ukrainian intelligence operative with the attacks on Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline complex last year. 

The massive underwater attack ruptured three out of the four pipelines in the network, greatly reducing the odds that Russia’s subsea gas deliveries to Germany would ever be revived at full scale. The suspects have never been identified by Western investigators, at least not in a public forum. 

There are clues pointing in many directions: the  Russian government was operating a submarine rescue vessel and other assets in the area just days before the incident, prompting suggestions that it could have been a Russian provocation. U.S. investigative journalist Seymour Hersh has suggested that it was an American-sponsored military operation, a charge the White House vehemently denies. And a separate German investigation points to a small Polish sailboat, chartered by a Ukrainian-linked firm, which might have been a platform for a covert Ukrainian dive operation. 

The new report from Der Spiegel follows this last thread, and it links former Ukrainian secret service agent Roman Chervinskyi to the alleged sailboat plot. Chervinskyi, who is currently facing trial in Ukraine in connection with an unrelated charge, is also suspected of organizing and supporting the operation to destroy the Nord Stream subsea gas lines, Der Spiegel reports

German investigators have told the outlet that all evidence points to a group of six Ukrainian operatives, including a fake passport, call logs, company records, IP addresses, and the travel patterns of the suspects. 

Chervynskyi denies involvement and told Der Spiegel that the allegations are “Russian propaganda.” However, he had previously described the pipelines as key enablers for the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and he hinted that “such operations are never planned alone,” according to the outlet. 

Formal investigations led by Sweden and Denmark have concluded that only a nation-state actor could have carried out the attack, but at least on the record, that is the closest that prosecutors have come to naming any specific suspects. Any of the investigative outcomes could be uncomfortable for Ukraine and its NATO allies, and there is a sense in some European policy circles that it might be best not to get to the bottom of it. “It’s like a corpse at a family gathering,” one European diplomat told the Washington Post earlier this year. “It’s better not to know.”

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