The natural-gas connection was sabotaged in September 2022, seven months after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, prompting rampant speculation about who was to blame.
After investigators delved into a series of undersea explosions that blew apart the Nord Stream natural gas pipelines linking Russia to Western Europe in fall 2022, intelligence agencies came to a general agreement: The evidence pointed toward pro-Ukraine forces, even if the question of who might have been directing them remained a mystery.
In Sweden, in whose economic zone the attack partly occurred, the issue remained so delicate that the nation wrapped its investigation in secrecy. It even refused to team up with its closest neighbors, Denmark and Germany, a sign of how nervous the issue was making officials in Stockholm at a moment when it is still maneuvering for acceptance into the NATO military alliance.
On Wednesday, after 16 months of closely guarding their findings, Swedish authorities finally published something — and reached no conclusion at all, at least in public. Sweden’s prosecutor said he was ending his inquiry and had turned over what it had found to the same countries with which the nation had previously declined to cooperate. German officials say their investigation is ongoing.
The Swedish inquiry began with considerable fanfare, as soon as it was clear that an act of sabotage had been responsible. The leading theory was that divers had planted underwater explosives in just the right place to do maximum damage. Because the attack took place partly in Sweden’s economic zone — though in international waters — Sweden opened a criminal investigation.
That investigation ended on Wednesday with what amounted to a press release, and no new findings. The conclusion, or rather the lack of a public one, underscored just how sensitive the issue remains.
If the explosions were the work of pro-Ukrainian forces, Ukraine itself could be linked to sabotage against some of its staunchest European allies. Before the war broke out, they were dependent on gas from the pipelines to drive their economies. And, increasingly, Kyiv is in need of European support if it is to have any hope defending itself, or of rebuilding after the war.