Chris Lange, FISM News
White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby declined to comment on Tuesday’s New York Times report that claimed U.S. intelligence officials determined that a pro-Ukrainian group was responsible for the September 26 Nord Stream gas pipeline attacks.
Asked about the Times report, Kirby said that the White House will wait for the completion of ongoing investigations into the explosions from Germany, Denmark, and Sweden before deciding what actions, if any, may be required.
The Times report stated that U.S. intelligence officials determined that a pro-Ukrainian group likely planted the explosives that knocked out three of the four Nord Stream natural gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea. The unnamed intelligence sources clarified that there was no evidence implicating Kyiv’s government.
“We do believe, and the president has said this, that it is an act of sabotage. But we need to let these investigations conclude and only then should we be looking at what follow-on actions might or may not be appropriate,” Kirby said, according to several media reports.
Senior Ukrainian presidential aid Mykhailo Podolyak said Kyiv was “absolutely not involved” in the blasts and that Ukraine has no information about what happened.
Washington and NATO have blamed Russia for the explosions as an “an act of sabotage.” FISM reported last month, however, that Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh said that the attacks were actually carried out by the Biden administration and the Norwegian navy with the goal of blaming the blast on Russia. U.S. officials called the report “utterly false and complete fiction.”
German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said that he read the Times report “with great interest” but cautioned against drawing premature conclusions, The Hill reported.
“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 on the sidelines of a European Union defense ministers meeting.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Wednesday described the media reports alleging Ukrainian involvement in the Nord Stream explosions as a coordinated manipulation intended to cover up the organizers of the attack.
“The masterminds of the terror attack clearly want to distract attention,” Peskov said in remarks carried by the state RIA Novosti news agency, as reported by The Associated Press.
The Nord Stream pipelines, built by Russia to carry natural gas to Germany, were not operating at the time of the explosions amid tensions between the European Union (EU) and Russia over the Ukraine invasion.
WAGNER GROUP CLAIMS NEW TERRITORIAL GAINS IN BAKHMUT
Russia’s Wagner Group military owner claimed Wednesday that his troops have extended their gains in the key Ukrainian stronghold of Bakhmut as fierce fighting continues in the war’s longest battle.
“Everything east of the Bakhmutka River is completely under the control of Wagner,” Yevgeny Prigozhin declared on the Telegram messaging app, per Reuters.
The river runs through Bakhmut city, part of the Donetsk region annexed by Russia last year. If the claim is true, it would mean Russian forces control nearly half the city. However, Reuters noted that Prigozhin “has issued premature success claims before.”
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Tuesday reversed course on plans for a “strategic” withdrawal of his forces in Bakhmut with a pledge to continue to defend it as military leaders seek to inflict as many casualties as possible on the Russians.
“The main task of our troops in Bakhmut is to grind the enemy’s fighting capability, to bleed their combat potential,” Serhiy Cherevatyi, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s eastern military command said in comments that aired on Ukrainian television Tuesday.
The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces said in its Wednesday morning report: “The enemy, despite significant losses, … continues to storm the town of Bakhmut.”
HUNGARIAN DELEGATION SAYS PARLIAMENT WILL RATIFY STALLED SWEDISH NATO ACCESSION
Elsewhere, a Hungarian parliamentary delegation said Tuesday that it will ultimately ratify support for Sweden’s NATO bid following a meeting with the speaker of Sweden’s parliament. The delegation said the meeting was held to resolve “political disputes” that have held up Hungary’s formal approval of Sweden’s accession into the military alliance.
Hungary had previously said that it would approve Sweden’s and Finland’s bids but has continued to stall a parliamentary vote, citing “blatant lies” from Stockholm and Helsinki about the state of its democracy.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg applauded the development.
“They are sending a positive message and recommending ratification. So, of course, we still have some way to go but we are making progress,” Stoltenberg told reporters in Brussels ahead of a meeting he will chair between representatives from Sweden, Finland, and Turkey.
Hungary and Turkey have held up the Swedish and Finnish bids for months, both of which require the approval of all 30 NATO members.
“I will be cautious about guessing what the outcome will be,” Stoltenburg told a press conference, adding: “It is important to meet.”
He reiterated that Sweden and Finland “have delivered on what they were supposed to do” after they applied to join the alliance in May.
Hungary has not said whether it will approve Finland’s bid.