MOSCOW (AP) - Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday dismissed allegations that Ukrainians could be behind the blasts that damaged the Nord Stream gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea last year, and insisted the U.S. was to blame.
Putin spoke after The New York Times, The Washington Post and German media published stories last week citing unidentified U.S. and other officials as saying there was evidence Ukraine, or at least Ukrainians, may have been responsible. The Ukrainian government has denied involvement.
Germany's Die Zeit newspaper and German public broadcasters ARD and SWR reported that investigators believed five men and a woman used a yacht hired by a Ukrainian-owned company in Poland to carry out the attack. German federal prosecutors confirmed that a boat was searched in January but have not confirmed the reported findings.
Putin rejected the notion as "sheer nonsense."
"Such an explosion, so powerful and at such depth, could only be conducted by experts backed by the entire potential of a state that has relevant technologies," he said in televised remarks.
The Russian leader insisted that he was convinced the U.S. was behind the explosion, saying it had an interest to halt supplies of cheap Russian natural gas to Germany and to provide it with more expensive liquefied natural gas.
The Kremlin last week described the claims about Ukrainian involvement in the explosions as part of a cover-up by the West.
September's explosions that hit the Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 pipelines rendered them inoperable and caused significant leaks of gas that was idle in the pipelines. No one claimed responsibility.
U.S. officials initially suggested that Russia may have been to blame. Russia blamed the U.S. and Britain. Investigations by European nations, including Denmark, through whose waters the pipeline travels, and Germany have yet to yield conclusive results.