March 2. 2024. 2:12

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Germany says Nord Stream attacks may be ‘false flag’ to smear Ukraine

German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius on Wednesday (8 March) warned against reaching premature conclusions on who was responsible for blowing up the Nord Stream pipelines, suggesting the attack could also have been a “false flag” operation to blame Ukraine.

The report, while not pointing to any official Ukrainian involvement, comes at a time when Kyiv is urging its Western allies to ramp up supplies of high-end weapons to drive back Russian forces as the war enters its second year.

Investigations are ongoing as to what caused the Nord Stream pipelines, supplying Russian energy to Europe, to rupture and spew bubbles of natural gas into the Baltic Sea last September. Western countries believe the explosions were deliberate but have not concluded who was behind them.

Russia, which has previously blamed the West, seized on the news on Wednesday to demand a transparent investigation in which it also wants to participate.

“We have to make a clear distinction whether it was a Ukrainian group, whether it may have happened at Ukrainian orders, or a pro-Ukrainian group (acting) without knowledge of the government. But I am warning against jumping to conclusions,” Pistorius said on the sidelines of a summit in Stockholm.

Pistorius said earlier the likelihood was “equally high” that it could have been a “false flag operation staged to blame Ukraine”.

Ukraine plays down concerns

At the same summit in Stockholm, Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov said the media reports were a “little bit strange” and had “nothing to do” with the Ukrainian government.

“It’s like a compliment for our special forces,” he joked. “But this is not our activity.”

Reznikov said he was not worried about the prospect of the media reports weakening support for Ukraine. Pistorius batted away a similar question about Western support as “hypothetical”.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov suggested the media reports were a coordinated bid to divert attention and questioned how US officials could assume anything about the attacks without an investigation.

“The very least that the Nord Stream shareholder countries and the United Nations must demand is an urgent, transparent investigation with the participation of everyone who can shed light,” Peskov said.

Reuters could not independently verify the information.

Russia last month gave the UN Security Council a draft resolution which – if adopted – would ask UN Secretary-General António Guterres to establish an international, independent investigation into the attack.