A senior Ukrainian military officer with deep ties to the country’s intelligence services played a central role in the bombing of the Nord Stream natural gas pipelines last year, according to officials in Ukraine and elsewhere in Europe, as well as other people knowledgeable about the details of the covert operation. The officer’s role provides the most direct evidence to date tying Ukraine’s military and security leadership to a controversial act of sabotage that has spawned multiple criminal investigations and that U.S. and Western officials have called a dangerous attack on Europe’s energy infrastructure.
Roman Chervinsky, a decorated 48-year-oldcolonel who served in Ukraine’s special operations forces, was the “coordinator” of the Nord Stream operation, people familiar with his role said, managing logistics and support for a six-person team that rented a sailboat under false identities and used deep-sea diving equipment to place explosive charges on the gas pipelines. On Sept. 26, 2022, three explosions caused massive leaks on the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines, which run from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea. The attack left only one of the four gas links in the network intact as winter approached.
Chervinsky did not act alone, and he did not plan the operation, according to the people familiar with his role, which has not been previously reported. The officer took orders from more senior Ukrainian officials, who ultimately reported to Gen. Valery Zaluzhny, Ukraine’s highest-ranking military officer, said people familiar with how the operation was carried out. They spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive details about the bombing, which has strained diplomatic relations with Ukraine and drawn objections from U.S. officials.
Ukraine has launched many daring and secretive operations against Russian forces. But the Nord Stream attack targeted civilian infrastructure built to provide energy to millions of people in Europe. While Gazprom, the Russian state-owned gas conglomerate, owns 51 percent of Nord Stream, Western energy companies, including from Germany, France and the Netherlands, are partners and invested billions in the project. Ukraine had long complained that Nord Stream would allow Russia to bypass Ukrainian pipes, depriving Kyiv of huge transit revenue.
Through his attorney, Chervinsky denied any role in the sabotage of the pipelines. “All speculations about my involvement in the attack on Nord Stream are being spread by Russian propaganda without any basis,” Chervinsky said in a written statement to The Washington Post and Der Spiegel, which conducted a joint investigation of his role.
Comment: Although still a theory at this time, it does make sense to me. Ukraine has the most to gain from the destruction of the Nord Stream pipelines and is a country in a fight for its life. Desperate men can do desperate things. In this case, it would be bold and ballsy as well, being done with six divers and a 50 foot chartered sailboat. A lot of questions remain as to how it was done.
If all elements of this WaPo investigative report prove true, Ukrainian Intelligence and Special Operations leadership are showing a troubling tendency for taking unilateral action apart from national civilian leadership, that they know better than the country’s leadership and are willing to go rogue. That’s a bad sign for a democratic government.
If true it also means that Sy Hersh doesn’t know his ass from a hole in the ground. He’s lost his knack.