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.