A recent NYT post claims that "Intelligence Suggests Pro-Ukrainian Group Sabotaged Pipelines, U.S. Officials Say". How true is this claim?
At the moment (March 9th 2023) it's impossible to say.
This latest theory about the Nordstream sabotage is being presented by several private and public news outlets from Germany who claim to have information directly from German law enforcement. The following information is from this German article by the news outlet Die Zeit (Media Bias Fact Check verdict: highly factual reporting with slight left-center bias) who claim to have been involved in the research.
This is what they claim to have found out:
- A yacht in Rostock (Germany) was rented by a company in Poland that was owned by two Ukrainians. [not mentioned in the article, but keep in mind that there are some Ukrainians who are pro-Russian]
- On September 6th 2022, the yacht was manned by a group of 6 people with diving equipment. Those people were using fake passports to conceal their identities and (probably) nationalities.
- Those people then planted the bombs at the pipelines
- German law enforcement found traces of explosives on board of the vessel
What they explicitly admit to not know yet:
- The identities or real nationalities of the people involved.
- Which government or non-government organization exactly the alleged saboteurs were working for.
Well, if you're asking strictly about the NYT story, the answer is in it:
U.S. officials declined to disclose the nature of the intelligence, how it was obtained or any details of the strength of the evidence it contains. [...]
All of them spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss classified intelligence and matters of sensitive diplomacy.
Other than that, the fact that it was published the same day as the much more detailed German press story... is interesting. Many secondary outlets included the German and NYT story in the same coverage/articles.
The NYT piece itself however makes no reference to Die Zeit or the German press disclosures, although it does say:
A spokeswoman for the C.I.A. declined to comment. A spokesman for the White House’s National Security Council referred questions about the pipelines to the European authorities, who have been conducting their own investigations.
And despite the intro sentences that the nature of the intel isn't discussed, it is in fact discussed a bit. It is said that divers were involved:
The explosives were most likely planted with the help of experienced divers who did not appear to be working for military or intelligence services, U.S. officials who have reviewed the new intelligence said. But it is possible that the perpetrators received specialized government training in the past.
So the talk about divers suggests it's perhaps broadly referring to the same swath of intelligence that was released in the German press. It's less clear what the NYT or US officials regard as a significant development (and relative to what time frame) since the yacht was discussed in the German press since January. Possibly the identify of the persons on it wasn't discussed earlier (I didn't follow the German press closely.) It is also possible that the US wasn't officially informed until more recently.
How the divers might be connected to Ukraine is not discussed in any detail in the NYT piece. Just this:
Officials who have reviewed the intelligence said they believed the saboteurs were most likely Ukrainian or Russian nationals, or some combination of the two. U.S. officials said no American or British nationals were involved.
There are however further exhortations that the Ukrainians are keeping the US in the dark about some of their covert operations though, with examples, of which I'm picking just the last one they mentioned:
U.S. officials and intelligence agencies acknowledge that they have limited visibility into Ukrainian decision-making. [...]
The explosions that ruptured the Nord Stream pipelines took place five weeks after Ms. Dugina’s killing.
which the NYT says was "was authorized by what officials called “elements” of the Ukrainian government" despite official denials from Kyiv. OTOH they follow that with:
The new intelligence provided no evidence so far of the Ukrainian government’s complicity in the attack on the pipelines [...]
So I guess that's why they put [just] "pro-Ukrainian" in the headline.