The United States Navy planted explosives under the Nord Stream gas pipelines in a covert sea operation last year, renowned American investigative journalist Seymour Hersh has revealed.
In a detailed report published in his blog on Wednesday, Hersh, citing his own investigation into the September sabotage, claimed that the bombing of the Nord Stream underwater gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea was ordered by the White House and carried out by the CIA with the help of the US Navy.
Hersh, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist known for his reporting on US crimes during the wars in Vietnam and the Middle East, said that US Navy deep-sea divers planted the high-powered C4 explosives under the gas pipelines under the guise of NATO naval exercises.
According to his reporting, the Norwegian military then activated the explosives remotely when they received the relevant order.
Two of the pipelines, known collectively as Nord Stream 1, had been providing Germany and much of Western Europe with cheap Russian natural gas for more than a decade. A second pair of pipelines, known as Nord Stream 2, had been built but were not yet operational.
Back on September 26, three huge gas leaks, preceded by a series of explosions, occurred on the pipelines. The powerful blasts, according to Moscow, knocked out three of the four strings of the Nord Stream network off the coast of the Danish island of Bornholm.
The 1,200-kilometer pipelines, operated by Russian gas giant Gazprom, are not currently in operation, but they both still contain gas under pressure.
Denmark, Germany and Sweden conducted separate investigations into the blasts, with all three countries having barred Russia from participating in their investigations.
The preliminary results of a Sweden-Denmark probe showed that the blasts had been "intentional sabotage", but no culprit has yet been identified.
Since then, Moscow has blamed the West for the damage to the infrastructure. In late October, Russia's Defense Ministry claimed that "British specialists" blew up the pipelines in a "terrorist attack," prompting London to reject the charges as an "invented story."
Hersh said in his report that the decision to undermine the Northern Stream 1 and 2 was agreed upon and approved personally by US President Joe Biden and that he discussed this issue with his inner circle for more than nine months, after which he gave the green light to carry out the bombing.
"Biden’s decision to sabotage the pipelines came after more than nine months of highly secret back and forth debate inside Washington’s national security community about how to best achieve that goal. For much of that time, the issue was not whether to do the mission, but how to get it done with no overt clue as to who was responsible," Hersh wrote.
Hersh also stressed that the key issue during the months-long discussions between the US president and his aides on explosions was the concealment of possible evidence of sabotage of multibillion-dollar infrastructure projects.
Following the publication of the report, Russia's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova called on the White House to comment on the "facts" that had been presented by Hersh.
"The White House must now comment on all these facts," she said on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, The White House, in a brief statement, strongly rejected the accusations by Hersh.
"This is utterly false and complete fiction," said Adrienne Watson, a spokesperson for the White House National Security Council.
The CIA and US State Department said the same.