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Blast hits key Ukraine gas pipeline: Police

Published on Jun 17, 2014 10:35 PM

KIEV (AFP) - A blast hit a major Ukrainian pipeline on Tuesday, but did not appear to affect the transport of Russian gas to European clients, Ukrainian officials said.

The incident occurred one day after Russia halted gas deliveries to Ukraine over unpaid debts, sending only the quantities purchased by European clients.

Moscow’s decision has enraged Ukraine’s new Western-backed leaders, and the country’s acting interior minister quickly blamed the explosion on Russian “sabotage”.

“We are considering several versions of events, including the main one – an act of terrorism,” Acting Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said in a statement. “The pipeline’s sabotage... is an another attempt by Russia to discredit Ukraine as a partner in the gas sector.”

The state emergencies service said the explosion appeared to have resulted from either a puncture or the loss of pressure in one of the pipeline’s seals.

Ukraine’s state gas transport company Ukrtransgaz said it had not affected the westward flow of Russian gas.

The 4,500km Urengoi-Pomary-Uzhgorod Pipeline, also known as the Trans-Siberian Pipeline, connects gas fields with western Ukraine with Russia’s western and central European clients.

The Russian section of the pipeline is operated by state energy giant Gazprom, and the Ukrainian segment by Ukrtransgaz.

There were no reports of any casualties from the blast in the north-eastern region of Poltava, the local police department said.

A worker turns a valve at an underground gas storage facility near Striy in western Ukraine on May 21, 2014. A blast hit a major Ukrainian pipeline on Thursday used to transport Russian natural gas to European clients, Ukrainian police officials said. -- PHOTO: REUTERS