President Joe Biden called the leaks in the Nord Stream pipelines a “deliberate act of sabotage” and accused Russia and President Vladimir Putin of “pumping out misinformation and lies,” though he did not directly blame Moscow for the leaks.
Biden’s strong words mark the first time he has directly claimed that the leaks were the result of sabotage, pushing back the Russian narrative of the incident amid Moscow’s escalating efforts to assert its claim to Ukrainian territory.
Leaks were discovered in the pipelines on Monday, prompting investigations by European authorities into powerful underwater explosions just before the pipelines burst in several places.
Biden said the United States is working with allies to “find out exactly what happened” to the leaks and that he has already deployed resources to help allies improve protection of the pipelines carrying gas from Russia to Europe. Union.
“Let me say this, it was a deliberate sabotage and now the Russians are pumping out misinformation and lies,” Biden said.
At “the right time when things settle down, we’ll send the divers down to find out exactly what happened,” he added. “We do not know yet.”
Western countries have said leaks in Nord Stream 1 and 2, two Russian gas pipelines, are likely the result of sabotage. But so far, US officials have been largely cautious compared to their European counterparts in drawing conclusions about the leaks.
Putin claimed on Friday that “Anglo-Saxons” were responsible for the explosions, claiming: “Well, because the Anglo-Saxon sanctions are no longer enough, they switched to sabotage. Unbelievable, but it’s a fact.”
Biden, however, insisted that what Putin is saying about the leaks is “not true”. And National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said on Friday that the US does not believe there is a NATO ally behind the leaks.
The pipelines were controversial long before Russia went to war on Ukraine, largely because of fears of Europe’s reliance on Russian energy.
If Russia had deliberately caused the explosions, it would in effect be sabotaging its own pipelines: Russian state-owned company Gazprom is the majority shareholder in Nord Stream 1 and sole owner of Nord Stream 2.
But officials familiar with the latest intelligence say Moscow would likely find such a move worth the price if it helped raise the cost of Ukraine’s support to Europe. US and Western intelligence officials believe Putin is betting that as electricity costs rise and winter approaches, the European public could turn against the Western strategy of economically isolating Russia. Sabotaging the pipelines could “show what Russia is capable of,” a US official previously told CNN.
Allegations of the leaks come amid what the West has labeled as Moscow’s most serious escalation in the war in Ukraine since the Russian invasion began in February.
Last week, Putin announced a partial mobilization in Russia, calling up 300,000 reservists. And earlier Friday, Putin made a formal speech announcing that Russia will annex nearly one-fifth of Ukraine after so-called referendums, which have been universally dismissed as a sham by Ukraine and Western countries.
Responding to Putin’s previous comments on annexation on Friday, Biden said, “America is fully prepared with our NATO allies to defend every inch of NATO territory. Every inch. So, Mr. Putin, don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. Every inch.”
Biden claimed that Western allies “will not be intimidated by Putin and his reckless words and threats. He will not scare or intimidate us. Putin’s actions are a sign that he is struggling.”
“The mock referendum he held and… the mock routine he set up this morning… well, the United States will never recognize this and frankly, the world won’t recognize it either. He can’t conquer his neighbor’s territory and get away with it. It’s that simple,” he continued.
Earlier Friday, the US announced new sanctions in response to the announcement of Putin’s annexation. The measures include a combination of export controls, visa restrictions and asset freezes, as part of an effort to further curtail Russian supply chains — and the individuals leading the effort — essential to continuing the war effort.
The United States, Biden said during his remarks, “will stay on track” with Ukraine.
“We will continue to provide military equipment so Ukraine can defend itself and its territory and its freedom, including additional resources Congress will give me today of $13 billion more to help Ukrainians defend themselves and fight back. he continued.
This story was updated Friday with additional developments.