Putin says NordStream blasts were carried out at a state level

Russian President Vladimir Putin has called “complete rubbish” the recent allegations that individual Ukrainians could have been responsible for the explosions that severely damaged the Nord Stream gas pipelines. President Putin suggested that the US might have been responsible. He asserted that, whoever was responsible for the attacks, they were carried out at a state rather than an individual level.

Speaking on Tuesday March 14th, the Russian leader said that the US had a motive to carry out the attack last year. He said that it wanted to halt supplies of Russian natural gas to Europe and export to it its own liquefied natural gas.

“Who is interested? Theoretically, the United States is interested in stopping the supply of Russian energy to the European market and supplying volumes of its own,” Putin said, adding that “such an explosion, so powerful and at such depth, could only be conducted by experts backed by the entire potential of a state that has relevant technologies”.

Recently the New York Times, The Washington Post, and German media have published stories, citing unidentified US and Europe-based officials that there was evidence that either Ukraine or pro-Ukraine groups could have been responsible for the explosions. The Ukrainian government has denied involvement.

In Germany the newspaper Die Zeit and public broadcasters ARD and SWR reported that investigators believed five men and a woman used a yacht hired by a Ukrainian-owned company in Poland to carry out the attack. German federal prosecutors then confirmed that a boat had been searched in January, but added no further confirmation.

Putin said that Germany’s response to the explosions proved that the country remained “occupied” and unable to act independently. “Germany was never a fully sovereign state,” he told state-owned TV channel Rossiya-1.

“The Soviet Union at one point withdrew its forces and ended what amounted to an occupation of the country. But that, as is well known, was not the case with the Americans. They continue to occupy Germany”, Putin claimed.

The Nord Stream pipelines, strongly backed by Germany’s previous administration under Angela Merkel, would have brought Russian gas directly to Germany from Ust-Luga on the Russian Baltic Coast.

Putin mocked European leaders for keeping quiet about the incident, claiming that their hesitancy reflected Europe’s subservient position in relations with the US. “The Europeans have lost a gene of independence, sovereignty and national interest. The more they [Americans] hit them on their noses or the top of their heads, the lower they bend and the broader they smile”, he said.

European countries have said that they believed the blasts were a deliberate act, but declined to say who they think was responsible. US officials initially suggested Russia could have been responsible, while Russia blamed the US and the UK.

Investigations have been undertaken by European nations, including Denmark and Germany, but Russia has not been invited to join the investigation, and no conclusive results have emerged.

Putin said that Russian natural gas company Gazprom had sent a vessel to check the seabed near the explosion, and that it had spotted what appeared to be an antenna near a junction between the pipes about 30km from the explosion site. Putin alleged the antenna could have been put on the seabed to trigger another explosive device that failed to detonate.

In February US-based investigative journalist Seymour Hersh quoted an unnamed source with “direct knowledge of operational planning” as saying the operation to blow up the pipelines was carried out by the US military and CIA – with direct approval given by US President Joe Biden. The White House said that Hersh’s report was “utterly false and complete fiction”.