Russia may demand compensation for the damage to the Nord Stream gas pipelines after a number of powerful explosions last year, a Russian diplomat says, as Moscow names the United States as the most probable culprit behind the blasts.
In an interview with Russia’s state-run RIA-Novosti news agency, Dmitry Birichevsky, head of the Russia's Foreign Ministry's department for economic cooperation, said Moscow also intended to open an international probe into the attacks on the multibillion-dollar Russian infrastructure, which connects Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea.
"We do not rule out later raising the issue of compensation for damage as a result of the explosion," he said on Monday, without clarifying who Moscow would seek damages from.
Birichevsky said Western countries were against a Russia-drafted United Nations Security Council resolution urging an independent international investigation of the Nord Stream explosions.
“Despite this, we intend to continue to insist on a comprehensive and open international investigation with the mandatory participation of Russian representatives,” he said.
On September 26, 2022, 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.
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 was not yet operational.
"At the moment, it's very difficult to speak about the future of the Nord Stream pipeline system. On the whole, according to experts, the damaged lines could be restored," Birichevsky said.
Following the blasts, Denmark, Germany, and Sweden conducted investigations, with all three countries having barred Russia from participating in the probes.
The preliminary results of a joint probe by Sweden and Denmark showed the blasts had been "intentional sabotage," but the responsibility was not assigned to any party. Moscow has been blaming the West ever since the explosions, calling the attack an act of international terrorism.
Last month, veteran American investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, in a detailed report published on his blog, claimed the bombing had been directly ordered by US President Joe Biden and carried out by the CIA with the help of the US Navy.
The White House swiftly rejected the report as "utterly false and complete fiction." The CIA and the US State Department also dismissed the report.
On Friday, Hersh further alleged that Biden could have agreed to blow up the pipelines to punish German Chancellor Olaf Sholz for his unwillingness about providing Ukraine with lethal arms and tanks.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Saturday that he agreed with Hersh that Biden plotted to blow up the pipelines to punish Berlin for refusing to supply arms to Ukraine in the midst of the war.
Earlier this month, the New York Times, in an exclusive report, said US officials "believed the saboteurs were most likely Ukrainian or Russian nationals, or some combination of the two." It did not identify the source of the intelligence and the suspected group involved.
However, Moscow was quick to cast doubt on the Times report, questioning the notion that such a group would be capable of conducting the daring task, with Putin rejecting the report as “complete nonsense.”
"An explosion of this kind, of such power, at such depth, can only be carried out by specialists, and supported by the entire power of a state, possessing certain technologies," the Russian leader said on March 14.
Separately, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, "For now the data indicates that such a large-scale act of sabotage and a terrorist attack against critical infrastructure could not have been carried out without the participation of the state and special state services."
“You see that Western countries are taking all possible measures to cover up this issue… But Russia will do everything possible to prevent this from happening.”
Last week, Reuters, citing unnamed sources familiar with the Kremlin's plans about the pipelines, reported the pipelines, built by Russia's state-controlled Gazprom, would be sealed up and mothballed as there were no immediate plans to repair or reactivate them.