Attack on Nord Stream: updates

Brian Whitaker
6 min readMar 24, 2023

Here’s a list of my articles about the Nord Stream sabotage. At the end of the list there’s also a collection of brief updates.

Nord Stream sabotage: a look at the evidence so far (June 20, 2023)

Nord Stream sabotage revelations make embarrassing news for Ukraine’s allies (June 7, 2023)

Nord Stream sabotage: German investigators focus on yacht (June 2, 2023)

Nord Stream investigation: another strange travel firm comes to light (May 25, 2023)

Nord Stream sabotage: mystery yacht’s Ukrainian connections (May 22, 2023)

Nord Stream sabotage: Russia’s ludicrous alibi (May 9, 2023)

New details of Russian naval activity near Nord Stream explosion sites (May 3, 2023)

Russian ‘underwater operations’ ship was photographed near site of Nord Stream explosions (April 28, 2023)

Photos show Russian ships were close to Nord Stream sabotage site four days before explosions (April 18, 2023)

All at sea: Seymour Hersh and his Nord Stream sabotage story (April 6, 2023)

Seymour Hersh and the Nord Stream pipe that wasn’t blown up (March 31, 2023)

Nord Stream attack: seismologists puzzle over explosions (March 27, 2023)

Nord Stream attack: spotlight shifts to Russia (March 26, 2023)

Attack on Nord Stream: some puzzling questions (March 21, 2023)

Attack on Nord Stream: the story so far (March 13, 2023)

UPDATES

Type of explosives identified, Swedish prosecutor says

April 6, 2023: Investigators have determined what type of explosive was used in the Nord Stream sabotage, Mats Ljungqvist, the Swedish prosecutor involved in the case, told Reuters on April 6. He did not name the explosive but said it ruled out “a very large number of actors”.

Other key points:

● “The people who did this have probably been aware that they would leave clues behind and probably took care so that the evidence would not point in one direction, but in several directions. That makes it difficult to clearly point to one actor.”

● “We don’t rule out anything, but that it is a state actor who is directly or at least indirectly behind this is of course our absolute main scenario, given all the circumstances.”

● The incident has become “an open arena” for attempts to influence debate, likely with the purpose of deliberately sowing confusion, Ljungqvist said. “I don’t want to comment on any specific report but I can conclude that many of the hot theories can be easily ruled out based on what we know from the investigation.”

Latest on the Andromeda yacht

March 31, 2023: German broadcasters NRD and WDR have some updates on the Andromeda yacht. Main points:

German security authorities “received information” about the rented boat “shortly” after the attack on Nord Stream.

It appears the Andromeda was not identified through systematic checks with rental companies. Numerous rental companies told WDR and NDR they had not been contacted by German investigators.

The Andromeda was hired by a Polish company which is said to be owned by Ukrainians. German investigators believe it is a shell company, with no known business activities.

Falsified Romanian passports were used, and the investigators have photos of them.

Regarding evidence of explosives found on a table in the boat’s cabin, German police (BKA) say it is the same substance that was found in the wreckage of the pipelines. However, there still seems to be some uncertainty about that.

The Andromeda was not searched until mid-January, possibly because of concerns that an earlier search could have attracted unwanted public attention.

According to the administrator of the island of Christiansø, Danish police had already inquired in December 2022 about ships that had visited the island in September.

Investigators have not ruled out the possibility that the yacht’s role was to lay a false trail.

US thinktank suggests Russia did it

March 30, 2023: An article from a Washington-based thinktank — the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) — suggests Russia could have blown up Nord Stream in order to claim force majeure and thus avoid breach-of-contract claims over its gas supplies to Europe.

Meanwhile, Reuters reports that Russia may seek compensation for damage to the pipelines — though it’s unclear who Russia would be seeking copensation from.

Object retrieved from seabed

March 29, 2023: The Danish navy has retrieved the submerged object that President Putin suggested was an antenna for detonating explosives (see previous update, March 23). A statement from the Danish Energy Agency said: “Investigations indicate that the object is an empty maritime smoke buoy, which is used for visual marking. The object does not pose a safety risk.”

Suspicious movements by Russian navy

March 25, 2023: At least three Russian naval vessels left Baltiysk near Kaliningrad on September 21 last year and headed towards the area where explosions wrecked Nord Stream’s underwater pipelines five days later, according to the German news portal T-Online. Equipment on board is said to have included a submersible rescue vehicle and cargo cranes for lifting heavy items — equipment that could have been relevant to the Nord Stream attack.

T-Online worked on the story in collaboration with OSINT analyst Oliver Alexander, who has posted a very detailed account of the research on his own website.

Neither article claims that Russia carried out the attack, though the evidence presented does indicate Russia had the means and the opportunity.

First photo of ‘antenna’

March 23, 2023: Last week Russia said a ship rented by its energy company Gazprom had discovered an antenna-like object adjacent to one of the Nord Stream pipes. President Putin commented at the time: “Experts believe that this could be an antenna to receive a signal to detonate an explosive device.”

The Danish defence ministry has now released a photo of the cylindrical object, which is said to be about 40cm long and 10cm in diameter.

The Danish authorities say it does not immediately pose a security risk and efforts are under way to retrieve it from the sea. First indications are that it’s a maritime smoke buoy.

The object is said to be adjacent to the only pipe (out of four) that was not ruptured in the attack — which raises the possiblity of an unexploded bomb somewhere along the pipe. If there is one, finding it could provide valuable clues for investigators.

Seymour Hersh returns to the fray

March 22, 2023: In a new post on Substack, journalist Seymour Hersh persists in his claim that President Biden ordered the Nord Stream attack. The new post doesn’t address the flaws in his earlier article. He goes on to claim — via another of his anonymous sources — that the Andromeda yacht affair is a fictitious story cooked up to distract from his own claims:

“I was told by someone with access to diplomatic intelligence that there was a discussion of the pipeline exposé and, as a result, certain elements in the Central Intelligence Agency were asked to prepare a cover story in collaboration with German intelligence …”

Divers and decompression

March 14, 2023: There are continuing assertions that if divers planted the explosives they would need to spend time in a decompression chamber afterwards.

In an article for the often-unreliable Consortium News, former weapons inspector Scott Ritter cites this as a reason for dismissing the Andromeda yacht scenario. There was no space on the boat for a decompression chamber and he says the time needed for decompression would have prevented the divers from completing their mission. Ritter continues:

“The team of divers would have required three days of decompression per dive. But to decompress, one needs a decompression chamber. For a dive involving two divers, the Andromeda would have to have been outfitted with either a two-person Class A decompression chamber, or two single-person Class B chambers, as well as the number of large oxygen bottles needed to operate these chambers over time.

“A simple examination of the interior cabin space of the Bavarian C50 yacht would quickly dispossess one of any notion that either option was viable.

“Simply put — no decompression chamber, no dive, no story.”

According to several expert divers, though, that is nonsense: if rebreathers were used and the dives were kept fairly short they could be done without need for a decompression chamber.

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Brian Whitaker

Former Middle East editor of the Guardian. Website: www.al-bab.com. Author of 'Arabs Without God'.