German minister says she hopes someone is indicted for the sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines

BERLIN (AP) — Germany's top security official says she hopes prosecutors will find sufficient evidence to indict whomever carried out an attack on the Nord Stream gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea last year.

Explosions on Sept, 26, 2022, damaged the pipelines, which were built to carry Russian natural gas to Germany. Who was responsible for the sabotage, which added to tensions over the war in Ukraine as European countries moved to wean themselves off Russian energy sources, remains a mystery.

Germany, Sweden and Denmark have investigated the attack though been tight-lipped about their findings.

“I hope that the (German) federal prosecutor will find enough clues to indict the perpetrators,” German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said in an interview with Der Spiegel magazine published Friday.

“We must bring such crimes to court,” she said. “It also strengthens citizens' confidence in the state of law when it succeeds in clearing up such complex cases.”

In July, European diplomats told the U.N. Security Council that investigators found traces of undersea explosives in samples taken from a yacht that was searched as part of the probe. But they said it wasn't yet possible to “reliably establish” the identity or motives of the perpetrators, or whether a specific country was involved.

Officials voiced caution in March over media reports that said a pro-Ukraine group was involved in the sabotage. German media reported then that five men and a woman used a yacht hired by a Ukrainian-owned company in Poland to carry out the attack, and that the vessel set off from the German port of Rostock.

German federal prosecutors at the time declined to comment directly on that and other reports, but they confirmed that a boat was searched in January and said there was suspicion that it could have been used to transport explosives to blow up the pipelines.

Der Spiegel and ZDF television reported Friday, without naming sources, that technical data leads investigators to believe that the the group on the yacht was in Ukraine before and after the attack. The federal prosecutor's office didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian officials have accused the U.S. of staging the explosions. Ukraine has rejected suggestions that it might have ordered the attack.

Asked about the political consequences if a link between the perpetrators and Ukraine were to be confirmed, Faeser told Der Spiegel: “I'm not speculating.” She noted that prosecutors were conducting Germany's investigation and said she could only make assessments when it is concluded.

The undersea explosions ruptured the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, which was Russia’s main natural gas supply route to Germany until Russia cut off supplies at the end of August.

The blasts also damaged the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which never entered service because Germany suspended its certification process shortly before Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.