A Ukrainian special forces commander played a key role in the sabotage of the Nord Stream gas pipelines in September 2022 in the Baltic Sea, affirmed in recent days the Washington Post (WP) and the Spiegel. This accusation, while the international investigation is still ongoing, gives credence to the thesis of Russia, which has always denied having targeted the gas pipeline and accused Ukraine of having sponsored the sabotage to serve its cause in the war. Update on these new accusations.
Recall of facts
On September 26, 2022, several explosions caused significant gas leaks on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, in the international waters of the Baltic Sea, then, several hours later, on Nord Stream 1. The two pipelines connect Russia and Germany, whose energy consumption depends heavily on Russian gas.
The next day, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen declared that the leaks were caused by deliberate actions: seismographs recorded explosions that could not be natural. Shortly afterwards, Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson declared that it was probably sabotage. Denmark and Sweden, the countries closest to the leaks, are opening investigations.
While Russia and Ukraine have been at war for seven months, the Ukrainian president’s closest advisor, Mykhailo Podoliak, claims that it is “a terrorist attack planned by Russia and an act of aggression against the European Union. President Zelensky has repeatedly denied having ordered the destruction operation. “I would never do that,” he said again last June to the German daily Bild.
VIDEO. Nord Stream: sabotage “does not come from our action”, says Ukrainian Defense Minister
A preliminary report submitted on September 30 to the United Nations Security Council indicates that four leaks were noted on the Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines, whicha section of at least 50 m of gas pipeline 1 is missing. It took “hundreds of kilos” of TNT to destroy the pipes, plunged to a depth of 80 m, notes the investigation. The complexity of the operations seems to point to state actors.
The continuation of the investigations would later show that small quantities of well-dosed explosive, placed on the weld joints of the segments making up the pipes, could shred the pipelines with the same efficiency. The pressure of the escaping gas would then have widened the openings, giving the impression of mive attacks.
VIDEO. Nord Stream 1: underwater images of the gas pipeline destroyed by explosions
The Washington Post and Spiegel theory
For months, the press, mainly German, has been discussing the soaring suspicions weighing on Ukraine, much more than on Russia. In their investigation, the American daily and the German magazine affirm that “Ukrainian military and security leaders” are linked to the sabotage. They implicate General Valery Zaluzhny, Ukrainian chief of staff, the highest ranking officer in Ukraine, and a junior colonel, Roman Tchervinsky, designated as the coordinator of the sabotage.
Who is Roman Chervinsky?
A decorated colonel, aged 48, he worked for Ukrainian intelligence – the SBU – as well as for military intelligence, the GUR. He served in the Ukrainian special operations forces. In 2020, he oversaw a complex undercover operation to lure Wagner mercenaries to Belarus, capture them and bring them to justice in Ukraine. He planned operations in Donb, an eastern region of Ukraine, which the pro-Russians have been contesting since 2014 in a latent war with kyiv.
Since Russia launched its offensive in February 2022, he had carried out sensitive activities in areas occupied by Russian forces, under the orders of a major general, Viktor Hanushchak, “a seasoned and respected officer, who communicated directly with Zaluzhny,” notes the Washington Post.
What is the sequence of operations?
Chervinsky would be the logistician of the operation. “All speculation about my involvement in the Nord Stream attack is spread by Russian propaganda without any basis,” he said in a written statement to the Washington Post and Spiegel. According to the German newspaper, IP addresses and phone locations show that the six people embled by Chervinsky to form the team were in Ukraine before and after the attack.
In Rostock, Germany, five men and a woman, divers and explosives specialists, allegedly boarded the sailboat Andromeda, rented under false Romanian and Moldovan identities, three weeks before the events. They are said to have placed explosive charges on three of the four pipelines that form Nord Stream 1 and 2. A team of investigative journalists from Der Spiegel and German public broadcaster ZDF chartered the same boat last July to recreate the journey .
A few months earlier, the Andromeda had been scrutinized by German investigators. Sniffer dogs had made it possible to detect the presence, under the bridge, on a table and in the toilets, of octogen, a particularly stable and powerful explosive, operating underwater. The investigation by Spiegel and ZDF showed that the sailboat had been chartered in September 2022 by a Warsaw travel agency called Feeria Lwowa, a company without a website, telephone number or offices. In the Polish commercial register appears the name of its manager, a 54-year-old woman, Nataliia A., who lives in kyiv.
An isolated or ordered act?
In June 2022, Dutch military intelligence services had reported to the CIA that an attack on the gas pipeline was being prepared by a group reporting “directly” to Ukrainian Chief of Staff Valery Zaluzhny. Zelensky was deliberately to be kept aside, according to their report.
Roman Tchervinsky is currently on trial in kyiv. He was arrested in April, accused of revealing the coordinates of a Ukrainian airfield during the summer of 2022, during an operation aimed at pushing a Russian fighter pilot to defect. The airfield was targeted by a Russian strike, which killed three people and injured 17. Viktor Hanushchak publicly stated that this poaching operation had been approved by the Ukrainian armed forces. He refused to comment on the two newspapers’ reports on the sabotage of the gas pipelines and claims to be facing political reprisals for criticizing President Zelensky.
kyiv has always opposed the creation of underwater gas pipelines allowing Russia to deliver its gas directly to Europe, without using the paid installations crossing Ukraine. Poland also saw these pipelines as an existential threat.