LOS ANGELES, Jan. 23 -- Supplies of natural gas from Russia to Georgia and Armenia were disrupted Jan. 22 when explosions in North Ossetia damaged the main North Caucasus-South Caucasus (NC-SC) pipeline and the Mozdok-Tbilisi (M-T) auxiliary pipeline.
The 1,200 mm NC-SC line is expected to be out of operation for 3 days, while the 700 mm M-T pipeline could be out for as long as 4 weeks.
Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili suggested Russia was responsible for the break in supply, saying it seemed designed to put political and economic pressure on Georgia. "We don't think it is accidental in any way," Saakashvili said. "The places where it happened, the environment in which it happened, the history in which it happened—this all looks like a policy decision."
Saakashvili said the disruption in supplies of gas came as Russia was trying to pressure Georgia into selling the Georgian gas pipeline network.
Since 2003, the Caucasian state has been pursuing a strongly pro-Western course, including its decision to participate in the Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, a project disliked by Russian authorities.
The Russian Foreign Ministry rejected Saakashvili's remarks as "hysterical and confused."
Russian officials initially said the explosions appeared accidental but later announced that a criminal investigation had begun and that the blasts were acts of sabotage, perhaps by insurgents in the region using makeshift bombs.
Meanwhile, an OAO Gazprom official said Russia would send extra supplies of gas through another pipeline to neighboring Azerbaijan for onward shipment to Georgia where authorities are setting priorities for emergency supplies to hospitals, bakeries, homes, and industry.
Contact Eric Watkins at [email protected].