Georgia accuses Russia in pipeline blast

Two explosions in North Ossetia near a border post between the Russian Federation and Georgia’s unrecognized breakaway Republic of South Ossetia seriously damaged the main pipeline that supplies gas to Georgia and Armenia Jan 22. The FSB concluded it was caused by explosive charges equal to some 800 grams of TNT. The prosecutor’s office of the Republic of North Ossetia reportedly suspects militants from neighboring Ingushetia. A third explosion in the Russian Federation’s Karachaevo-Cherkessia Republic damaged the main power line supplying electricity from Russia to Georgia.

In an address that day, Georgia’s President Mikheil Saakashvili implicitly blamed Russia for the sabotage of the pipelines. Saakashvili told the Financial Times that the blasts were deliberate retaliation for Georgia’s efforts to reduce its 100% dependence on Russian gas by securing alternative supplies from Azerbaijan and Iran. He added that Islamic militants in the North Caucasus had “no reason” to target Georgia. The Russian Foreign Ministry in a statement on rejected Saakashvili’s accusations as “hysterical and confused,” and it accused “practically the entire Georgian government” of seizing on the sabotage as a pretext for intensifying their “anti-Russian campaign.” Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov likewise expressed “surprise” on at the Georgian accusations, advising that the incident should not be “politicized,” ITAR-TASS reported. (RFE/RL, Jan. 23)

See our last posts on the North Caucasus, Azerbaijan, and the regional pipeline wars.