Russia and West Clash over Probe of Nord Stream Sabotage

February 22, 2023

UNITED NATIONS — Russia clashed with the United States and other Western nations Tuesday over the Kremlin’s call for a U.N. investigation of last September’s sabotage of the Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines from Russia to Western Europe.

Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told the U.N. Security Council that Moscow has “no trust” in the separate investigations being carried out by Denmark, Sweden and Germany, but it does “fully trust” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to establish an independent international investigation of the explosions.

The United States, United Kingdom, France and others said authorities from the three countries are still investigating the pipeline attacks and the real reason Russia raised Nord Stream 1 and 2 now was to divert attention from the first anniversary of its invasion of Ukraine and high-level U.N. activities for the next three days including adoption of a General Assembly resolution condemning Moscow’s action.

“Today’s meeting is a blatant attempt to distract from this,” U.S. Minister-Counselor John Kelley told the council. “As the world unites this week to call for a just and secure peace in Ukraine consistent with the U.N. Charter, Russia desperately wants to change the subject.”

Ahead of the meeting, the ambassadors of Denmark, Sweden and Germany sent a letter to council members saying their investigations have established the pipelines were extensively damaged “by powerful explosions due to sabotage.”

The letter, circulated Tuesday morning, said further investigations are being conducted in all three countries and that it’s unclear when they will finish. It says Russian authorities have been informed about the investigations.

But Russia’s deputy U.N. ambassador Dmitry Polyansky told reporters: “They are claiming that they are informing Russia about it which is not true … Any attempt for us to get any information was rejected by them or ignored.”

Russia circulated a draft resolution to council members late last week asking the U.N. secretary-general to urgently establish a commission to investigate the Nord Stream attacks. Security Council experts held closed consultations Monday on the proposed resolution and council diplomats said there was opposition to it.

Russia’s Nebenzia said Moscow hasn’t been allowed to join investigations by any of the three countries, saying they “are not only not transparent, but it is quite clear that they seek just to cover the tracks and stick up for their … American brother.”

Russia has alleged that the U.S. was behind the sabotage, which its proposed resolution says “occurred after the repeated threats to the Nord Stream by the leadership of the United States.”

Kelley, the U.S. diplomat, responded, telling the council “clearly and plainly: Accusations that the United States was involved in this act of sabotage are completely false. The United States was not involved in any way.”

Nord Stream 1 carried Russian gas to Germany until Moscow cut off supplies at the end of August 2022. Nord Stream 2 never entered service as Germany suspended its certification process shortly before Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022. The explosions on both occurred on Sept. 26.

U.N. political chief Rosemary DiCarlo briefed the Security Council, saying the U.N. is not in a position to verify any claims relating to the explosions and urging “all concerned to show restraint and avoid any speculation.”

“While exactly what happened beneath the waters of the Baltic Sea in September 2022 is still unclear, whatever caused the incident, its fallout counts among the many risks the invasion of Ukraine has unleashed,” she said.

Economist Jeffrey Sachs told the council the consequences of the sabotage were “enormous” not only from the economic losses but in the heightened threat to all cross-border infrastructure, including undersea internet cables and offshore wind farms.

“It is the responsibility of the U.N. Security Council to take up the question of who might have carried out the act in order to bring the perpetrator to international justice, to pursue compensation for the damaged parties and to prevent future such actions,” he said.

Sachs, a Columbia University professor, is also director of the U.N. Sustainable Development Solutions Network and a commissioner of the U.N. Broadband Commission for Development. He was invited to speak by Russia and said he appeared before the council on his own behalf.

Sachs said the destruction of the pipelines “required a very high degree of planning, expertise and technological capacity,” and to do so in the exclusive economic zones of Denmark and Sweden “adds greatly to the complexity of the operation.”

“Only a handful of state level actors have both the technical capacity and access to the Baltic Sea to have carried out this action including the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, Poland, Norway, Germany, Denmark and Sweden, either individually or in some combination,” Sachs said. “Ukraine lacks the necessary technologies as well as access to the Baltic Sea.”

In their letter to the council, Denmark, Sweden and Germany reiterated that acts of sabotage against the pipelines were “unacceptable, endanger international security and give cause for our deep concern.”

They added that concerns about the indirect effects on greenhouse gas emissions are “substantial and worrisome.”

The Russian draft resolution, expresses serious concern at the “devastating consequences to the environment” from the acts of sabotage which also “pose a threat to international peace and security.”



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