Troubling accusations in Ukraine
Did Ukraine plunge Europe into the dark last year? That’s the charge from unnamed Ukrainian officials, who claim Col. Roman Chervinsky, of Ukraine’s special operations forces, coordinated a sabotage operation that caused three explosions at the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines on Sept. 26, 2022. The pipelines run from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea, and Nord Stream 1 (Nord Stream 2 wasn't in use yet) provided about 35% of the gas European Union states imported from Russia prior to the war.
Through his lawyer, Chervinsky – who’s awaiting trial on charges of abuse of power related to a different matter – denied any role in the attack, calling it “Russian propaganda.” But he isn’t the focus of the Nord Stream accusations: Observers say they are really directed at Gen. Valery Zaluzhny, Ukraine’s highest-ranking military officer, to whom Chervinsky’s bosses reported.
Zaluzhny was recently involved in a public spat with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky over an interview and op-ed Zaluzhny gave to The Economist, where he described the state of the war as a “stalemate.”
Those remarks – amid fears they might prompt Western nations to push for a settlement between Moscow and Kyiv – earned a sharp rebuke from Zelensky. A few days later, Major Gen. Viktor Khorenko, head of special operations forces and one of Zaluzhny’s deputies, was dismissed in a surprise move.
Zaluzhny is a popular figure and is considered a potential political rival to Zelensky, even though he hasn’t shown an interest in politics. The leak of the Nord Stream story may be the latest sign of a growing rift between Zelensky and the military, as the conflict with Russia drags into its second year, the counteroffensive stalls, and next year’s planned elections loom.