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Bombs cut Russian gas supplies to Georgia, Armenia

MOSCOW - Russian natural gas supplies to neighboring Georgia and Armenia were halted early Sunday after two explosions ripped through a gas pipeline linking Russia and Georgia, forcing the two affected countries to look for alternative sources of energy.

"A sharp drop in pressure was reported in the Mozdok-Tbilisi gas pipeline at 2:55 a.m. Sunday (2355 GMT Saturday). At 3:05 a.m.(0005 GMT), the pipeline was shut off," Vladimir Ivanov, spokesman for the Emergency Situations Ministry of the Caucasian region of North Ossetia, was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying.

The blasts damaged the main and reserve pipelines on the Russian side of the border with Georgia in North Ossetia, Ivanov said, adding experts are working at the site to investigate the blasts.

The Emergency Situations Ministry said no one was hurt in the accident and Russian consumers were not affected.

Russian Deputy Prosecutor General Nikolai Shepel said a criminal case of sabotage has been launched over the blasts, which were caused by two explosive devices.

Experts estimated restoration of the pipelines will take two to three days.

The Georgian capital of Tbilisi is using gas left over in the pipelines and if no alternative solution is found, the city will run out of gas, Tbilisi's gas distribution company Tbilgaz said.
The blasts damaged the main and reserve pipelines on the Russian side of the border with Georgia in North Ossetia.

The gas shortfall has prompted Georgia, which is heavily dependent on Russia for gas supply, to urgently seek alternative sources of energy.

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili and his Azerbaijiani counterpart Ilham Aliyev discussed Azerbaijani gas supply to Georgia during a telephone conversation Sunday, the Georgian presidential press service said.

Armenia, which receives Russian gas via Georgia, is currently using gas from an underground gas storage facility and has asked consumers to cut back on gas usage.

The Armenian gas company Armrosgazprom's reserves will be able to last till the pipeline is repaired if Armenians economize on gas, company spokesman Shushan Sardanian was quoted by Interfax assaying.

Editorial Notes: More on the explosions themselves: ...The explosions were heard with 15-minute intervals on the territory of the Autonomous Republic of North Ossetia, near the Georgian-Russian border early on Sunday. According to Nikolai Shepel, Russian Deputy Prosecutor General, the explosions occurred after detonation of the self-made bombs. Total force of detonation amounted to explosion of about 800 grammes of TNT. Georgia has started importing natural gas from Azerbaijan: As the company’s press office reports, the Azerbaijani party has already started increasing gas pressure in the pipeline connecting Georgia with Azerbaijan. “Tonight [22 Jan], approximately at 21:00 Moscow time the gas will arrive in Georgia,” said the company’s spokesperson. According to the spokesperson, it is difficult to say yet, what amount of gas will be imported. Besides, he reminded that “the GIGC President David Ingorokva together with Fuel and Energy Minister Nikolai Gilauri are having talks with the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran on buying gas.” “The Georgian government representatives have been in Tehran for two days on the instructions of the Georgian president,” said the spokesman. Meanwhile, as Georgian National Bank President Roman Gotsiridze said, “the country has enough financial resources to buy the natural fuel.” “We will have no problems in buying gas,” he added. Unsurprisingly, ArmRosGazprom called the population to save gas The ArmRosGazprom Company has appealed to the Armenian population to save gas and use alternative sources for heating, the company’s spokeswoman Shushanna Sardaryan told REGNUM. According to her, after the gas supplies were cut off from Russia, ArmRosGazprom started supplying gas to the customers in the previous amount from the Abovyan underground gas reservoir. Meanwhile, as Sardaryan noted, in the next few days gas supplies to the local gas stations. “If the population saves gas, the resources will be enough until the gas pipeline from Russia to Georgia and Armenia is restored,” said the spokesperson for the company, which is the exclusive importer of gas to Armenia. According to her, Armenia daily consumes 6.7 million cubic meters of gas. ... On January 22, Armenian President Robert Kocharyan was scheduled to go to Moscow to hold talks on tariffs on gas supplied from Russia to Armenia via the pipeline that exploded today.

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