Explosion tears through Russian gas pipeline during repairs

MOSCOW (AP) — An explosion during repairs on a section of a Europe-bound natural gas pipeline in western Russia killed three people on Tuesday but didn’t affect export supplies, officials said.

The explosion ripped through a section of the Urengoy-Pomary-Uzhhorod pipeline in the Chuvashia region during repair work. Three repair workers were killed and one was injured by the blast, which sent a huge plume of burning gas skyward, regional authorities said.

The pipeline that originates at a gas field in Siberia and crosses Ukraine along its way to Europe is one of the main routes for Russian gas exports to the EU.

Chuvashia’s governor, Oleg Nikolayev, said in televised remarks that it wasn’t immediately clear how long it would take to fix the section of the pipeline cut by the explosion. The regional branch of Russia’s state-controlled natural gas giant, Gazprom, said volumes of gas transit weren’t affected by the blast as supplies were rerouted along parallel lines.

The pipeline crossing Ukraine has become the main conduit for Russian natural gas supplies to Europe since an explosion ripped through the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipeline under the Baltic Sea in September, causing extensive damage.

Investigators in Sweden have found traces of explosives at the Baltic Sea site where two natural gas pipelines were damaged in an act of “gross sabotage,” but they stopped short of apportioning blame.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused the West of blowing up the pipelines and singled out the United States as profiting from attacks on Europe’s energy infrastructure, while some Nordic and other European news outlets have alleged Moscow’s involvement.

Nord Stream 1 carried Russian gas to Germany until Moscow cut off supplies at the end of August, citing equipment problems. German officials dismissed that explanation as cover for a political decision to push up prices and create uncertainty.

Nord Stream 2 never entered service as Germany suspended its certification process shortly before Russia sent its forces into Ukraine in February.

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