Russia has accused British naval personnel of involvement in a “terrorist attack” on the Nord Stream gas pipelines.
The key Baltic supply route from Russia to Europe was severely damaged in “huge explosions” last month, which Germany, Sweden and Denmark are investigating as an act of sabotage.
Moscow has repeatedly claimed that claims that it was behind the September 26 attacks are “stupid” and has sought to blame the West.
Now Vladimir Putin’s regime has directly accused the UK – a NATO member – of involvement in an attack on critical Russian infrastructure.
“According to available information, representatives of this unit of the British Navy were involved in the planning, deployment and execution of a terrorist attack in the Baltic Sea on September 26 this year – the blowing up of the Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 gas pipelines,” the Russian Defense Ministry said .
The ministry did not provide any evidence to support its claims and also claimed that the same British military specialists – allegedly based in the city of Ochakiv in Ukraine’s Mykolaiv region – helped Kiev forces plan a drone attack on Russia’s Black Sea Fleet on Saturday morning.
Moscow said it destroyed all drones involved in the alleged attack in Crimea’s Sevastopol Bay, as well as its sea minesweeper Ivan Golubets had minor property damage.
The UK MoD responded by accusing its Moscow counterparts of “spreading false claims of epic proportions” to “detract from their disastrous handling of the illegal invasion of Ukraine”.
“This latest made-up story says more about the infighting within the Russian government than it does in the West,” a spokesman said.
Rear Admiral Chris Parry, a retired British naval officer, told Sky News that Moscow’s claim was “a blatant lie”, adding: “You always have to be suspicious of what the Russian Ministry of Defense says.
“It’s hardly the Ministry of Truth, and Russian propaganda these days is always accusing everyone else of doing what they actually did. There is no way for the Royal Navy or anyone in the UK offshore industry to blow up these pipelines. It’s a blatant lie and we all know the Russians did it.”
Russian state TV presenters have previously accused both British military divers and the United States of being behind the pipeline blasts, while Russian officials have claimed Washington’s motive is to want to sell more gas to Europe. The US has denied involvement.
The damage to the pipelines came just weeks after Russia’s state supplier Gazprom announced it would close the 745-mile Nord Stream 1 line “indefinitely,” blaming technical problems and supply problems caused by Western sanctions.
The second Nord Stream pipeline was only recently completed and not yet operational, but plans to start the flow of Russian gas were put on hold by Germany just before Putin’s invasion of Ukraine in February.
It is currently unclear whether the pipelines will be used again to transport gas from Russia to Europe, as Germany, Denmark and Sweden have each launched their own investigations into the explosions.
Aside from a letter from Danish and Swedish investigators to the UN three days after the attack, which stated that “several hundred kilograms” of explosives had caused the blasts, none of the three nations has released any further information.
“There is still a lot of secrecy,” said Jens Wenzel Kristoffersen, commander of the Danish Navy and military analyst at the University of Copenhagen The New York Times. “The reason is simple, because they have to be absolutely safe. If they have results, they have to be based on pretty hard facts and not just speculation.”
Mr Kristoffersen told the newspaper he thought it was unlikely any of the investigators would make an announcement “until they have this smoking evidence”, adding that uncertain results “could provoke reactions that would not be helpful at this point.” “. .