Nord Stream Blast Probe: German Investigators Say Six-Member Team Involved

Authorities in Germany who are probing last year’s Nord Stream natural-gas pipelines blast identified a boat manned by a six-member crew and said these people could have been involved in the operation, the Wall Street Journal reported citing people familiar with the developments.

The German officials probing the blasts said a sport sailing boat was rented by six people in northern Germany ahead of the blasts and some among those six people presented Ukrainian passports as identification.

The Wall Street Journal said that boat first docked in the port of Wiek, which is located on the German island of Rügen and later docked on the Danish island of Christianso, which is 18 km northeast of the Baltic Sea island of Bornholm.

The pipelines were not very far from the island of Bornholm.

The Danish authorities are also conducting a similar probe into the nature of the blasts. “The police were searching for a specific boat that had moored here in September,” Soren Thiim Andersen, the highest authority on the island of Christiansö, told Reuters.

However, Ukrainian authorities denied involvement in the explosions.

The report was compiled by the Federal Criminal Office, or BKA. This is the German equivalent of the American Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). They are handling the investigation on behalf of German federal prosecutors.

German weekly Die Zeit earlier this week reported some details of the boat and its crew.

The report surfaced shortly after the New York Times reported that pro-Ukrainian groups were responsible for the blasts.

Renowned investigative journalist Seymour Hersh said the US, with help from Norway, masterminded the attacks earlier in February.

That claim was also denied by officials in Kyiv and said they were not involved in the blasts.

Another set of western officials familiar with the developments told the Wall Street Journal that the picture is “too vague” to point in any direction. They also said that Ukrainian involvement in the attack may have been deliberately planted by the actors of the sabotage to cover their tracks.

The German defence minister Boris Pistorius warned Wednesday against drawing conclusions about the identities of the members of the crew and who may have backed them.

Pistorius said they could have links to Ukraine but it could also be a Russian operation staged to blame Kyiv.

German federal prosecutors earlier in January searched a vessel in connection with the Nord Stream blasts and suspected it may have been used to transport explosives.

The investigators, however, are yet to ascertain those involved in the attack but say that more than one team could have been involved.

The report by the German investigators said they found no evidence of the crew planting the explosives that severely damaged the pipelines and the scale of the operation indicates that more than six people were involved.

The report says the blasts were carried out using at least 500 kilograms of explosives. They also said that TNT may have been used to damage the pipelines because they found residue found at the explosion site. They now feel that the traces of TNT may have come from contact with exploded bombs or bomb-like explosives which is commonly found on the seabed in those regions.

Investigators also said that Semtex may have been used to conduct the underwater blast. This was, however, a conjecture and has not been made part of the report. Traces of explosives were also found on the boat but the officials are unclear about the type.