Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused the US intelligence agencies of being behind the explosions that damaged the Nord Stream gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea last September.
In an interview with Russia 24 TV on Saturday, Putin said he agreed with the findings of American journalist Seymour Hersh, who claimed that the US President Joe Biden ordered the sabotage of the pipelines to undermine Russia’s energy exports to Europe.
“An American journalist, who has become quite famous now in the world, conducted such an investigation and, as is known, came to the conclusion that this explosion at the gas pipelines was organised by the US special services. I fully agree with these conclusions,” Putin said.
The Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 pipelines, which are largely owned by Russia’s Gazprom, carry natural gas from Russia to Germany and other European countries. The explosions last year caused major leaks and disrupted gas supplies to Europe amid a severe energy crisis.
Russia has called the incidents an act of “international terrorism” and demanded a transparent investigation by the United Nations. However, Putin said that Russia was denied access to the probe and that an unidentified object found near one of the pipelines was declared safe by Danish authorities.
The US has denied any involvement in the sabotage and said that Hersh’s report was a fabrication. The New York Times reported earlier this month that US intelligence officials had reviewed evidence suggesting that a pro-Ukraine group, possibly consisting of Ukrainians or Russians, was behind the attacks.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy also rejected any link to the explosions and said that such allegations were aimed at creating tensions between Ukraine and its Western allies. Ukraine has been locked in a conflict with Russia-backed separatists since 2014 and opposes the Nord Stream projects as a threat to its national security and sovereignty.
One of Putin’s close allies, Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of Russia’s Security Council, compared the sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines to the CIA-backed attacks on oil infrastructure in Nicaragua in 1983. He said that the West had a history of targeting pipelines to undermine its rivals.
Putin also accused the US and its allies of using sanctions and political pressure to prevent the completion of Nord Stream 2, which is expected to double the capacity of Nord Stream 1. He said that the US wanted to increase its own sales of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Europe at higher prices.
The Nord Stream 2 pipeline has faced strong opposition from the US and some European countries, such as Poland and Ukraine, who fear that it will increase Europe’s dependence on Russian gas and weaken their leverage over Moscow. Germany, however, has supported the project as a matter of economic interest and energy security.
The pipeline is nearly finished, but still requires certification from German regulators before it can start operating. The German government has said that it will abide by EU rules and regulations regarding Nord Stream 2 and that it will not allow any political interference in its decision-making process.