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‘Only Russia’ could be behind Nord Stream leaks, says former German intel chief

Only a state actor could have carried out attacks on the Nord Stream pipelines and the most likely culprit is Russia, said the former head of Germany’s federal intelligence agency.

“An unnoticed, conspiratorial damage to pipelines at a depth of 80 meters in the Baltic Sea requires sophisticated technical and organizational capabilities that clearly point to a state actor,” Gerhard Schindler told German newspaper WELT.

“Only Russia can really be considered for this, especially since it stands to gain the most from this act of sabotage. The halt in gas supplies can now be justified simply by pointing to the defective pipelines, without having to advance alleged turbine problems or other unconvincing arguments for breaking supply contracts,” he added.

Attacks of this kind would undoubtedly also unsettle Western states and their populations, which would fit into the Russian calculation. “And last but not least, the price of gas goes up, which is of course in Russia’s interest,” Schindler said.

According to media reports, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency warned Germany about the scenario of an attack on the Nord Stream pipeline. Schindler could not say whether and how specifically the CIA had given its warning.

August Hanning, who headed the BND (Federal Intelligence Service) from 1998 to 2005, agreed with Schindler that the attack must have been ordered by a state.

“This operation was obviously carried out in such a professional and complex manner that only well-trained special forces could be considered for its execution,” he said.

He said it was unlikely that submarines could have approached the pipeline because this would have attracted attention. An attack by drones would be more likely. But the most plausible scenario, he said, is that combat swimmers planted the explosive devices.

“Which state is behind the attack must now be carefully clarified. Somewhere such an attack leaves its traces,” Hanning said.

Another former head of the BND, Gerhard Conrad, declined to elaborate on who or what might have been behind the attack.

“First, careful forensic investigations must be carried out. That is not yet possible at the moment. Then we will already know more,” he told WELT.

He added that the attack could have been carried out by torpedo.

Regarding the alleged CIA warning, he added: “There are always warnings. The question is how concrete they are. There have also been repeated warnings that undersea cables, for example, could be deliberately damaged.”

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