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Russian gas begins direct flow to South Ossetia

Russian gas begins direct flow to South Ossetia

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin vowed to defend South Ossetia's independence and presided over the launch Wednesday of the first pipeline to carry Russian natural gas directly to the breakaway Georgian republic, bypassing Georgia proper.
During a meeting between Putin and the South Ossetian leader in Moscow, Gazprom chief executive Alexei Miller called his deputy in the South Ossetia's capital and instructed him to open the valve.
The meeting took place on the first anniversary of Russia's recognition of the independence of South Ossetia and a second breakaway republic, Abkhazia, following a brief war last year between Russia and Georgia.
Putin said Russia would defend their independence.
"I'd like to emphasize once and for all _ Russia will not allow any attempts at revenge or new military escapades," he said.
Putin said Russia was not worried that no other country except Nicaragua has recognized South Ossetia's or Abkhazia's independence. "Having done it ourselves is enough for us," he said.
State-controlled Gazprom said it spent 15 billion rubles ($476 million) building the 163-kilometer (98-mile) pipeline from the Russian republic of North Ossetia, with construction beginning in December 2006.
Until Wednesday, South Ossetia received natural gas from Russia via a pipeline that passed through Georgia proper. Russia also shipped liquefied natural gas to South Ossetia.
Gazprom said in a statement that the Ossetian pipeline is vital since supplies passing through Georgia are fraught with "high risks of disruption due to geopolitical reasons."
Also Wednesday, General Staff chief Nikolai Makarov said Russia had reduced its troop contingents in South Ossetia and Abkhazia to about 1,700 in each region, Russian news agencies reported.
The statement, made as Makarov accompanied President Dmitry Medvedev on an official visit to Mongolia, came just two weeks after Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said there were roughly 3,600 troops in each region.
Russia has blocked international observers from the regions, making confirmation of troop numbers difficult.
The Foreign Ministry on Tuesday issued a statement warning that "no form of international presence" would be allowed in Abkhazia or South Ossetia unless other countries recognized the regions as independent.
Medvedev also defended the recognition decision on its first anniversary.
"I think it's legitimate from the viewpoint of international law, it's just and absolutely necessary," he said in televised comments. "For our country this decision is irrevocable and we will stick by it."


Updated : 2021-06-18 13:12 GMT+08:00