Germany’s defence minister has voiced caution over media reports that a pro-Ukraine group was involved in blowing up the Nord Stream gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea last year.
German daily newspaper Die Zeit and public broadcasters ARD and SWR reported on Tuesday that investigators were able to largely reconstruct how the pipelines from Russia to Germany were sabotaged on the night of September 26, 2022.
German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius said he read the news reports “with great interest” but warned against drawing hasty conclusions.
“We need to clearly differentiate whether it was a Ukrainian group that acted on the orders of Ukraine or (…) without the government’s knowledge,” he told reporters in Stockholm.
Speaking on the sidelines of a European Union defence ministers meeting, Pistorius said some experts also had raised the possibility of a so-called false flag operation by a group pretending to be Ukrainian.
“It would not be the first time in the history of such events,” the German minister said. “As such, I’m refraining from drawing premature conclusions.”
READ MORE: Investigators find ‘traces of explosives’ at Nord Stream blast site
Asked whether the reports could undermine Western support for Ukraine, Pistorius said he preferred to respond once he had reliable information. “Anything else is hypothetical,” he added.
The New York Times also reported Tuesday that US officials reviewed intelligence that suggested a pro-Ukrainian group was behind the blasts. The Ukrainian government has denied involvement.
Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov rejected suggestions that the attack might have been ordered by Kiev. “It’s like a compliment for our special forces, but this is not our activity,” he told reporters in Stockholm.
White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby declined Tuesday to comment on the New York Times report, noting that investigations by Denmark, Germany, and Sweden remain active.
“We need to let these investigations conclude,” Kirby said. “And only then should we be looking at what follow on actions might or may not be appropriate.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his officials have accused the US of staging the pipeline explosions, which they described as a “terror attack”.
The Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines have long between a target of criticism by the United States and some of its allies, who warned that they posed a risk to Europe’s energy security by increasing dependence on Russian gas.
READ MORE: Sabotage cannot be ruled out as reason for Nord Stream leaks: Kremlin
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