An explosion struck a pipeline carrying Russian natural gas via Ukraine to the European Union on Tuesday, an incident the Ukrainian Interior Ministry said it was treating as a possible “act of terrorism”.
The blast took place in Ukraine’s central Poltava region, hitting the main transit pipeline from Russia to the EU. The Ukrainian government said the explosion, which comes one day after Russia cut its gas supplies to Ukraine in an ongoing pricing and debt dispute, did not disrupt flows to the European Union.
Ukraine has been gripped by crisis for the past few months, with the government fighting pro-Russian separatists in the country’s east. Although the explosions happened far from the unrest, the government did not rule out the possibility of terrorism.
“Several theories of what happened are being considered including the key theory - an act of terrorism,” Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said. “According to local residents, they heard two big bangs just before the explosion which could indicate they were deliberate explosions.”
The Energy Ministry also suggested there may have been foul play, without speculating who might have been behind the blast.
“It is not the first attempted terrorist attack on the Ukrainian gas transportation system,” the ministry said in a statement, referring to two explosions on transit pipelines in the western part of the country in May.
Police in Poltava region said the blast was at 2:20pm (11:20am GMT), and hit the pipeline about two metres (six feet) below a field. There were no casualties.
Video footage showed smoke pouring high into the sky.
Ukrainian state-run gas transport monopoly Ukrtransgaz said there was no disruption to the gas flow and a source at Russian gas producer Gazprom said: “Exports have not been cut. There is a parallel pipeline.”
The emergency services said the blast was caused by the pipeline becoming depressurised, though it did not say what caused it to become depressurised.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)
Date created : 2014-06-17