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Who blew up the Nord Stream pipeline that supplies Europe? My money is on Ukraine.

About the Ukraine offensive. It's going to work! Putin is going to give up, pull out and say he's sorry. Really. I'm not kidding! Why are you so cynical?


U.S. Warned Ukraine Not to Attack Nord Stream

CIA pressed Kyiv weeks before explosions sabotaged the natural-gas pipelines bringing Russian gas to Europe

By Bojan Pancevski, Drew Hinshaw, Joe Parkinson and Warren P. Strobel, WSJ

Updated June 14, 2023 4:49 am ET



Gas bubbled from the Nord Stream leak in the Baltic Sea in September 2022.


The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency warned the Ukrainian government not to attack the Nord Stream gas pipelines last summer after it obtained detailed information about a Ukrainian plot to destroy a main energy connection between Russia and Europe, officials familiar with the exchange said.


Weeks later, in August, the CIA informed at least seven different NATO allies that Ukraine no longer appeared to be plotting to sabotage the pipelines and that the threat had diminished, European officials said. Those officials now believe Ukraine hadn’t canceled the original plan but had modified it, selecting a new point of departure and tapping an alternative military officer to lead it.


The message, delivered by CIA officials to Ukraine in June, followed a tip the CIA received from the military intelligence service of the Netherlands, these officials said.


The CIA and other allies had questions over whether Ukraine had the capacity to carry out such an attack, which would require placing explosive charges deep beneath the Baltic Sea. Some European governments still struggle to believe that Ukraine, using a single 50-foot yacht, was able to do so.


Weeks later, on Sept. 26, the pipelines were hit. Ukraine has vehemently denied that it had anything to do with the attack on the pipelines.


The exchange of information began in June, when Dutch military intelligence officials told the CIA that a Ukrainian sabotage team was looking to rent a yacht on the Baltic coastline and use a team of divers to plant explosives along the four pipes of the Nord Stream and Nord Stream 2 pipelines.


Initial intelligence suggested that the sabotage team was answering to Gen. Valeriy Zaluzhniy, the commander of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, according to people familiar with it. This hypothesis was later played down by investigators in at least two European countries who have considered that a different Ukrainian commander might have ultimately helmed the operation. Zaluzhniy’s office didn’t return requests for comment.


The plan was to stage the attack after the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s exercise called Baltic Ops that took place in the area above the pipelines and ended on June 17, European intelligence officials said.


The CIA quickly notified a group of allied countries, including Germany, the landing site of the pipelines, via a secure cable sometime in June 2022. Other countries along the Baltic coastline were also warned, though not necessarily in the same detail.


CIA officials asked their counterparts in Kyiv if they were mounting an attack. It couldn’t be determined how the Ukrainians responded.


Investigators searching for answers behind explosions on the Nord Stream pipelines last year said a rental yacht may be linked to the incident, while some officials have ruled out Russian involvement. WSJ explores what we know so far. Photo composite: Danish Defence Command via Reuters/Uwe Driest

The CIA then received information that Ukraine had called off the original plan, according to a U.S. official.


In late summer, the CIA told Germany and other allied nations that the threat level from such an operation had diminished because the U.S. no longer believed Kyiv would undertake such an attack, said European officials who received or were briefed on that assessment.


The following month, a series of powerful underwater explosions tore apart three of the four main Nord Stream pipes.


Andriy Chernyak, spokesman for Ukraine’s military intelligence agency, denied that Ukraine was involved in the blasts when asked Tuesday about the CIA’s inquiry.


In a recent interview with the German newspaper Bild, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said, “I believe that our military and our intelligence did not do it, and when anyone claims the opposite, I would like them to show us the evidence.”


The revelation appears to show that the U.S. intelligence agency—along with several Western governments—believed for months that the Ukrainian government had planned to sabotage the pipeline, a notion that these governments kept under wraps after the attack itself.


At a meeting with a European counterpart in October, CIA Director William Burns told his counterpart that available evidence didn’t point to Russia. When asked if it was Ukraine, he said, “I hope not,” according to an official present at the meeting.


Western officials, including in the U.S. and Germany, have said they suspect a “pro-Ukrainian group” orchestrated and executed the sabotage. Some details of the CIA’s warning, including disclosing the role of the Dutch military intelligence in tipping off the CIA, were published earlier on Tuesday by a media consortium led by Germany’s Zeit newspaper.


Last week, The Wall Street Journal reported that German investigators were examining evidence that suggested a Ukrainian sabotage team had used Poland, a European Union neighbor and NATO ally, as a hub for the logistics and financing of last year’s attack. Investigators haven’t accused Poland’s government or any Polish individuals of involvement.


Previously, the Journal reported that German investigators believe those responsible rented the Andromeda, a 50-foot-long sailing yacht, using a Warsaw-based travel agency, to plant bombs along the pipelines.


Its passengers returned the boat unwashed, allowing investigators to recover fingerprints, and traces of explosives—as well as DNA that they have tried to match to at least one Ukrainian soldier, through his son, who lives in Germany.


Write to Bojan Pancevski at bojan.pancevski@wsj.com, Drew Hinshaw at drew.hinshaw@wsj.com and Warren P. Strobel at Warren.Strobel@wsj.com

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