BERLIN — German prosecutors have found “traces” of evidence indicating that Ukrainians may have been involved in the explosions that blew up the Nord Stream gas pipelines in September 2022, according to German media reports Tuesday.
Investigators identified a boat that was potentially used for transporting a crew of six people, diving equipment and explosives into the Baltic Sea in early September. Charges were then placed on the pipelines, according to a joint investigation by German public broadcasters ARD and SWR as well as the newspaper Die Zeit.
The German reports said that the yacht had been rented from a company based in Poland that is “apparently owned by two Ukrainians.”
However, no clear evidence has been established so far on who ordered the attack, the reports said.
In its first reaction, Ukraine’s government dismissed the reports.
Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, denied the Ukrainian government had any involvement in the pipeline attacks. “Although I enjoy collecting amusing conspiracy theories about the Ukrainian government, I have to say: Ukraine has nothing to do with the Baltic Sea mishap and has no information about ‘pro-Ukraine sabotage groups,'” Podolyak wrote in a tweet.
Three of the four pipes making up the Nord Stream 1 and 2 undersea gas pipelines from Russia to Germany were destroyed by explosions last September. Germany, Sweden and Denmark launched investigations into an incident that was quickly established to be a case of “sabotage.”
The German media reports — which come on top of a New York Times report Tuesday which said that “intelligence suggests that a pro-Ukrainian group” sabotaged the pipelines — stress that there’s no proof that Ukrainian authorities ordered the attack or were involved in it.
Any potential involvement by Kyiv in the attack would risk straining relations between Ukraine and Germany, which is one of the most important suppliers of civilian and military assistance to the country as it fights against Russia’s full-scale invasion.
According to the investigation by German public prosecutors that is cited by the German outlets, the team which placed the explosive charges on the pipelines was comprised of five men — a captain, two divers and two diving assistants — as well as one woman doctor, all of them of unknown nationality and operating with false passports. They left the German port of Rostock on September 6 on the rented boat, the report said.
It added that the yacht was later returned to the owner “in uncleaned condition” and that “on the table in the cabin, the investigators were able to detect traces of explosives.”
But the reports also said that investigators can’t exclude that the potential link to Ukraine was part of a “false flag” operation aiming to pin the blame on Kyiv for the attacks.
Contacted by POLITICO, a spokesperson for the German government referred to ongoing investigations by the German prosecutor general’s office, which declined to comment.
The government spokesperson also said: “a few days ago, Sweden, Denmark and Germany informed the United Nations Security Council that investigations were ongoing and that there was no result yet.”
Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova dismissed the reports of Ukrainian involvement in the Nord Stream bombings, saying in a post on the Telegram social media site that they were aimed at distracting attention from earlier, unsubstantiated, reports that the U.S. destroyed the pipelines.
Veronika Melkozerova in Kyiv contributed reporting.