A Washington Post report says the Ukrainian military left President Zelenskyy in the dark about the operation.
The Kremlin has expressed “alarm” over a report that senior Ukrainian military officials, acting without their president’s knowledge, coordinated an attack on Russia’s Nord Stream gas pipelines last year.
A spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Monday that the report, published by The Washington Post, is further evidence of Ukrainian involvement in the attack and said the West should also be concerned over the claim that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was unaware of the operation.
Published by the Post after a joint investigation with the German news magazine Der Spiegel, the report named a Ukrainian special forces commander as the coordinator of the September 2022 explosions that damaged Russia’s multibillion-dollar gas pipeline network below the Baltic Sea, disrupting its exports to Europe.
The attacks have long been a source of contention, sparking competing accusations of Western, Ukrainian and Russian involvement. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack.
The Post, citing people familiar with the operation, said Roman Chervinsky was the main orchestrator. Chervinsky, a high-level military official with extensive intelligence links, answered to a chain of command that went up to the Ukrainian military’s commander-in-chief, General Valery Zaluzhnyi, the report said.
Zelenskyy was intentionally left in the dark about the operation, the newspaper reported, suggesting other covert operations against Russian forces have also happened without the president’s approval.
A spokesperson for Ukraine’s military told the Reuters news agency on Sunday that he had “no information” about the report.
Chervinsky said in a statement issued through his attorney that he had no involvement in the operation. “All speculations about my involvement in the attack on Nord Stream are being spread by Russian propaganda without any basis,” he said.
The Kremlin reacts
The Kremlin, however, said the report is evidence of Ukrainian involvement.
“Traces of Ukraine in this sabotage, this terrorist act, are increasingly appearing in reports, investigations and media reports,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
“It says that President Zelenskyy may not have been aware of such actions by his subordinates from the security agencies. This is a very alarming signal not only for us but also for the countries of the collective West,” Peskov said.
“If the Kyiv regime is no longer in control of the situation in its own country, then this is alarming and should also be taken into account.”
Russia had previously accused the West, particularly the United States and Britain, of involvement in the Nord Stream explosions without providing evidence.
Some US and European officials had initially suggested, also without evidence, that Russia had blown up its own pipelines, a claim dismissed as idiotic by Putin.
The second Nord Stream pipeline had been completed shortly before the explosions. The network allowed Russia to bring its gas into Europe by circumventing the previous mainline, which runs through Ukraine. State-owned gas firm Gazprom has 51 percent ownership of the pipeline alongside Western energy firms that poured billions of dollars into the project.