By Guy Faulconbridge and Vladimir Soldatkin
MOSCOW (Reuters) -The Kremlin said on Thursday the world should know the truth about who sabotaged the Nord Stream gas pipelines and that those responsible should be punished after an investigative journalist said U.S. divers blew them up at the behest of the White House.
A sharp drop in pressure on both pipelines was registered on Sept. 26 and seismologists detected explosions, triggering a wave of speculation about sabotage to one of Russia’s most important energy corridors.
In a blog post, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh cited an unidentified source as saying that U.S. navy divers had destroyed the pipelines with explosives on the orders of President Joe Biden.
Reuters was unable to corroborate the allegations. The White House dismissed them as “utterly false and complete fiction”. Norway’s foreign ministry said the allegations were “nonsense”.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Hersh’s blog post deserved more attention and that he was surprised it had not been covered more fully by Western media.
“The world must find out the truth about who carried out this act of sabotage,” Peskov told reporters. “This is a very dangerous precedent: if someone did it once, they can do it again anywhere in the world.”
He called for “an open international investigation of this unprecedented attack on international critical infrastructure”, adding: “It is impossible to leave this without uncovering those responsible and punishing them.”
Peskov struck a note of caution about treating a blog as a primary source but said it was “unfair” to ignore an article he said was “remarkable for the depth of analysis”.
Russia, without providing evidence, has repeatedly said the West was behind the blasts affecting the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines last September – multibillion-dollar infrastructure projects that carried Russian gas to Germany.
President Vladimir Putin has accused “Anglo-Saxon” powers of blowing up the pipelines, a Kremlin-designed project to circumvent Ukraine in exporting its gas under the Baltic Sea directly to western Europe.
Investigators from Sweden and Denmark – in whose exclusive economic zones the explosions occurred – have said the ruptures were a result of sabotage, but have not said who they believe was responsible.
In his blog post, entitled “How America Took Out The Nord Stream Pipeline”, Hersh said a plan was hatched in 2021 at the highest levels in the United States to destroy the pipelines.
The report said a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) working group came up with a covert operation plan to put explosives on the pipelines.
Russian officials and politicians have lined up to demand answers since the blog appeared.
“I think there will be consequences from this,” state news agency RIA quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying.
Another deputy foreign minister, Alexander Grushko, was later quoted by TASS news agency as saying Russia could take political or legal action in response to the report.
“The investigation is being carried out in such a way that… the remains are literally and figuratively left in the water,” he said in other comments cited by RIA.
Vyacheslav Volodin, chairman of the Russian State Duma, or lower house of parliament, said the report should become the basis for an international investigation for “bringing Biden and his accomplices to justice”.
The United States should pay “compensation to countries affected by the terrorist attack”, Volodin added.
(Editing by Gareth Jones)