Roman Chervinsky, a colonel in Ukraine’s Special Operations Forces, was an integral part of the destruction of the Nord Stream 1 & 2 pipelines, an investigation by the Washington Post and Der Spiegel reported on November 11.
The report revealed that Chervinsky, a senior Ukrainian military officer with strong ties to the country's intelligence services, played a central role in the bombing of the Nord Stream natural gas pipeline last year.
Chervinsky is a decorated 48-year-old colonel who served in Ukraine's Special Operations Forces. He is said to have acted as the "co-ordinator" of the Nord Stream operation, overseeing logistics and support for a six-person team that carried out the sabotage. On September 26, 2022, three explosions damaged the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines, which run under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany, leaving only one of the four gas links intact.
Evidence is mounting that Ukrainians were behind the attack on the pipelines, after initially Russia, the US and the UK were each blamed for the explosions that massively reduced the delivery of Russian gas to the EU. What remains unclear is whether the attack was authorised by the Ukrainian government or whether the government had any knowledge of the plan.
Analysts worry that the Washington Post revelations could be part of infighting inside the Ukrainian government and highlight that at a time when Ukraine fatigue is building, this could be very damaging for the Ukrainian cause.
"The conflict between Zelenskiy's office and Zaluzhny is apparently real. Within this conflict, people close to Zelenskiy leaked to WaPo what is effectively an admission that [it] is responsible for Nord Stream.
The purpose of the leak is to blame Zaluzhny for the Nord Stream attack while claiming that Zelenskiy did not know about it," said Ilya Matveev, a political scientist formerly based in St Petersburg, Russia, and who is currently a visiting scholar at UC Berkeley, in a tweet.
"In effect, a leak to WaPo becomes a weapon in the internecine struggle, but the admission itself puts Ukraine in an incredibly tough spot diplomatically. This just shows how destructive the spiralling conflict between Zelenskiy and Zalyzhny can be." The investigation reports that Chervinsky did not act alone and did not plan the operation himself. Instead, he reportedly received orders from more senior Ukrainian officials, who ultimately reported to General Valery Zaluzhny, Ukraine's highest-ranking military officer, who recently caused a storm by saying the war in Ukraine is at a stalemate.
The claim that Chervinsky was taking orders from Zaluzhny is explosive, as it suggests the attack on the pipelines, a major piece of European energy infrastructure, was officially sanctioned.
Chervinsky has denied any involvement in the pipeline sabotage, stating that the speculations about his role are being spread by Russian propaganda without any basis. The Ukrainian government has not responded to questions about Chervinsky's participation.
Chervinsky's role was well-suited for carrying out covert missions due to his experience in senior positions within Ukraine's military intelligence agency and the Security Service (SBU). He has also been involved in other secretive operations, such as luring Russian mercenaries into Belarus and targeting pro-Russian separatist leaders.
Chervinsky is currently held in a Kyiv jail on charges related to a plot to lure a Russian pilot to defect to Ukraine. He claims that he was acting on orders and that his arrest is politically motivated due to his criticism of the Ukrainian government.
The revelation of Chervinsky's involvement in the Nord Stream attack contradicts Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's public denials of his country's involvement in the operation. It appears that the operation was designed to keep Zelensky uninformed, with those involved reporting directly to General Zaluzhny, according to the Washington Post.