A Ukrainian special forces commander played a key role in sabotaging the Nord Stream gas pipelines in September last year, reports said on Saturday.
Mystery hovers over the origin of the explosions that damaged pipelines, cutting a major route for Russian gas exports to Europe and fueling already high tensions following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
Different theories have emerged pointing the finger at Ukraine, Russia or the United States. All have denied any involvement.
A joint investigation by the Washington Post and German newspaper Der Spiegel targets Roman Chervinsky, a 48-year-old who served in Ukrainian special operations forces.
He was the “coordinator,” according to reports, citing officials in Ukraine and elsewhere in Europe, as well as others with knowledge of the operation, who spoke anonymously.
He oversaw logistics and support for a six-person team, which chartered a sailboat using false identities and diving equipment to place explosive charges on pipelines, the Post said.
The explosions ruptured three of the four pipelines that make up Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2, releasing gas into the Baltic Sea.
Chervinsky did not plan the operation or act alone, and took orders from higher-ranking Ukrainian officials, the Post reported.
He denied any involvement in the sabotage through his lawyer.
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“All speculation about my involvement in the Nord Stream attack is being spread by Russian propaganda without any basis,” he said in a statement to the Post and Spiegel.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has repeatedly denied that his country was behind the sabotage.
“I would never do that,” he told German newspaper Bild in June, adding that he “would like to have proof.”
But Operation Nord Stream was designed to keep Zelensky in the dark, the Post reported.
Both media outlets said the Ukrainian government did not respond to requests for comment on their investigation.
Chervinsky is currently on trial in kyiv, accused of abusing his power by trying to persuade a Russian pilot to defect.
He claims his prosecution is political retaliation for criticizing Zelensky, according to reports.