Sergei Lavrov Accuses U.S. of Nord Stream Pipeline Attack

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused the U.S. on Thursday of being involved in the explosions that damaged the Nord Stream gas pipelines under the Baltic Sea last September.

In an interview on state TV, Lavrov said remarks made by U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland at a Senate hearing on January 26 were evidence that Washington was behind the blasts.

After leaks occurred on the two Nord Stream natural gas pipelines linking Russia and Germany last September, a Swedish investigation found evidence of detonations, pointing to sabotage. President Joe Biden called the leaks a "deliberate act of sabotage" at the time, though he did not directly accuse Moscow of being responsible.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a joint press conference with his Egyptian counterpart following their talks in Moscow on January 31, 2023. He accused the U.S. on Thursday of being involved in. the explosions that damaged the Nord Stream gas pipelines. MAXIM SHIPENKOV/POOL/AFP/Getty Images

Lavrov has now seized on recent comments by Nuland to suggest they point to U.S. involvement in the blasts.

At the January 26 Senate hearing, Nuland became involved in a discussion with Senator Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican, about whether the Russian invasion of Ukraine could have been prevented if the U.S. had passed sanctions against the new Nord Stream 2 pipeline, carrying natural gas from Russia to Germany, in January of last year.

"Senator Cruz, like you, I am, and I think the administration is, very gratified to know that Nord Stream 2 is now, as you like to say, a hunk of metal at the bottom of the sea," she said at one point.

Her comment clearly meant that the Biden administration was pleased that the $11 billion Russian-owned pipeline—which the U.S. had opposed for years on the grounds that it increased European reliance on Russian energy—is not being used. Germany halted the recently finished project just before the invasion last February after Russia formally recognized two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine.

Neither Cruz nor Nuland mentioned the September sabotage and Nuland has previously used the phrase "hunk of metal" to describe the idle pipeline. In a January 2022 USA Today article—before the Russian invasion and the pipeline leaks—Nuland refers to Nord Stream 2 as "currently a hunk of metal on the bottom of the ocean."

Lavrov said Thursday, however, that her remarks to the Senate proved the United States was directly involved. Nuland effectively made a "confession," he said.

"And this is not only the direct participation of the United States in the Nord Stream explosions. Now Nuland, in fact, has made a confession," Lavrov said in an interview with the Rossiya 24 TV channel and the state-run news agency RIA Novosti.

A State Department spokesman told Newsweek Lavrov's allegations are "preposterous" and are "just another desperate attempt to deflect from Russia's brutal war against Ukraine with blatant disinformation and lies."

"We can say categorically that the United States was not involved in any way and we continue to work with Allies and partners to get to the bottom of what happened," the spokesman said.

He added: "These pipelines weren't pumping natural gas into Europe at the time. Nord Stream 2 was never operational. Nord Stream 1 had been shut down for weeks because of Russia's weaponization of energy."

Russian President Vladimir Putin has previously accused Britain of attacking the pipelines, without offering evidence for his allegation. London has rejected the claims.

Lavrov's latest accusation comes just weeks after he said no European country was conducting a proper probe into the pipeline explosions.

Investigators in Sweden and Denmark say the explosions were sabotage, but have not named any possible culprits.

"After the explosions on Nord Stream—which, it appears nobody in the European Union is going to objectively investigate—Russia stopped gas transportation through the northern routes," Lavrov said.

A day after the blasts, Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, alleged that Moscow was behind the explosions. The Kremlin has denied the allegations, calling them "stupid and absurd."

In December, The Washington Post, quoting diplomats and intelligence officials, reported that there was no conclusive evidence to suggest that Russia was being the blasts.

It is still unclear who ordered and carried out the attack.

"There are aspects of this mystery that resemble an Agatha Christie novel, in which nearly everyone involved appears to have a motive or would benefit from the outcome," Sergey Vakulenko, an independent Russian energy analyst, wrote in a report published by the Carnegie think tank in September.

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Update 2/3/23, 3:45 a.m. ET: This article was updated to include a statement from the U.S. State Department.