US has questions to answer over Nord Stream blasts, Russia says

Comments by Russia’s foreign ministry come after a piece by American investigative reporter Seymour Hersh alleging the US military was behind the Nord Steam attacks.

The United States has questions to answer over its alleged role in explosions that destroyed the undersea Nord Stream gas pipelines last year, Russia’s foreign ministry says.

It was commenting on a blog post published earlier on Wednesday by respected American journalist Seymour Hersh that accused the US military of involvement in the blasts and alleged President Joe Biden green-lighted the operation.

Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova called on the White House to address the “facts” presented by Hersh.

Quoting one unnamed source with “direct knowledge of the operational planning”, Hersh detailed how “skilled deep-water divers” from the US Navy planted C-4 explosives during a training exercise last June, then detonated the payload remotely three months later.

“President Joseph Biden saw the pipelines as a vehicle for [Russian President] Vladimir Putin to weaponise natural gas for his political and territorial ambitions,” Hersh wrote.

Hersh is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist who exposed the 1969 massacre of Vietnamese civilians by American forces. He also broke the story of US troops brutalising Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib after the US invasion in 2003.

Russia, without providing evidence, has repeatedly said NATO nations were behind last September’s explosions affecting the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines – multibillion-dollar infrastructure projects that carried Russian gas to Germany under the Baltic Sea. Western officials have denied those accusations.

“The White House must now comment on all these facts,” Zakharova said in a post on her Telegram page, where she summarised Hersh’s main claims regarding the alleged US involvement.

The White House on Wednesday dismissed Hersh’s post. “This is utterly false and complete fiction,” said Adrienne Watson, a spokesperson for the National Security Council. A US Department of State spokesperson said the same.

A Central Intelligence Agency spokesperson echoed the White House denial, calling the report “completely and utterly false”.

‘Something to hide’

The US and NATO have called the Nord Stream explosions “an act of sabotage“.

Investigators from Sweden and Denmark – in whose exclusive economic zones the blasts occurred – have said the ruptures were a result of sabotage, but have not said who they believe was responsible.

Moscow said the countries “have something to hide” and are purposefully blocking Russia from the investigation. Its defence ministry previously accused British navy personnel of blowing up the Nord Steam pipelines.

Construction of Nord Stream 2, designed to double the amount of gas Russia could send directly to Germany under the sea, was completed in September 2021. But the pipeline was never put into operation after Berlin shelved certification just days before Moscow sent its troops into Ukraine in February 2022.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Thursday that Hersh’s blog post deserved more attention and he was surprised it had not been covered more fully by Western media.

“The world must find out the truth about who carried out this act of sabotage,” Peskov told reporters. “This is a very dangerous precedent: if someone did it once, they can do it again anywhere in the world.”

He called for “an open international investigation of this unprecedented attack on international critical infrastructure”, adding: “It is impossible to leave this without uncovering those responsible and punishing them.”

Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko was later quoted by TASS news agency as saying Russia could take political or legal action.

“The investigation is being carried out in such a way that … the remains are literally and figuratively left in the water,” he said.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies