Russia's Gazprom: gas flow to Europe uninterrupted after blast on key pipeline

The Associated Press

FILE - In this Wednesday May 21, 2014 file photo, a Ukrainian worker operates a valve in a gas storage point in Bil 'che-Volicko-Ugerske underground gas storage facilities in Strij, outside Lviv, Ukraine. Russia on Monday, June 16, 2014, cut gas supplies to Ukraine as a payment deadline passed and negotiators failed to reach a deal on gas prices and unpaid bills amid continued fighting in eastern Ukraine. The decision does not immediately affect the gas flow to Europe, but could disrupt the long-term energy supply to the region if the issue is not resolved, analysts said. (AP Photo/Sergei Chuzavkov, file)

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By NATALIYA VASILYEVA, Associated Press

MOSCOW (AP) — An explosion at a key pipeline in Ukraine has not disrupted the flow of gas to Europe, Russian gas monopoly Gazprom said on Wednesday.

The blast, which occurred Tuesday far from where government troops are fighting pro-Russia separatists, came a day after Russia cut gas supplies to Ukraine in a dispute over price and overdue payments.

Ukraine's energy ministry said in a statement it has reason to believe "the blast was caused by sabotage" intended to discredit Ukraine as a transit country. The ministry did not provide any further evidence to support the claim.

Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said at the start of a government meeting that preliminary findings indicate an explosive device had been planted in the pipeline's concrete supports. However, he said the investigation was still ongoing.

Moscow says it is waiting for Kiev to pay at least $1.9 billion of its $4.5 billion debt before talks about prices and paying off the debt and can continue. Gazprom said Monday that deliveries to Ukraine would have to resume by mid-October to ensure the country has enough reserves for the winter.

Vitaly Markelov, Gazprom's deputy chief executive, told reporters on Wednesday that gas flows had not been disrupted and that European customers are receiving the contracted amounts.

Markelov refused to speculate on the cause but said poor maintenance of pipelines in Ukraine makes such accidents more likely.

"I think they will continue to occur because the network needs to be maintained well," he said.

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