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Russia to begin gas supplies to S.Ossetia bypassing Georgia

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A new pipeline to supply Russian natural gas to South Ossetia bypassing Georgia will be inaugurated in Tskhinvali on Wednesday, to mark the anniversary of the former Georgian republic's independence.

MOSCOW/VLADIKAVKAZ, August 26 (RIA Novosti) - A new pipeline to supply Russian natural gas to South Ossetia bypassing Georgia will be inaugurated in Tskhinvali on Wednesday, to mark the anniversary of the former Georgian republic's independence.

The former Georgian republic currently receives Russian gas via a pipeline passing through Georgia's territory.

Georgia, which considers both South Ossetia and Abkhazia to be part of its territory, has previously taken measures to block fuel supplies to the republics.

Last August Georgia cut off gas deliveries to South Ossetia shortly after the conflict with Russia, stating that a section of the pipeline within South Ossetia had been damaged. Moscow denied the damage, saying the cutoff was deliberate. The supplies were suspended until late January.

On August 16 Georgian patrol officers seized a Turkish tanker carrying fuel to Abkhazia. Tbilisi seized over 3,000 metric tons of gasoline and 775 metric tons of diesel, saying the shipment was unauthorized and illegal.

Last year Russian energy giant Gazprom began the construction of a pipeline to supply gas directly to South Ossetia. The 169-km Dzuarikau-Tskhinvali pipeline passes through mountainous regions with a maximum altitude of 3,200 m above sea level. Around 69 km of the pipeline is in South Ossetian territory.

Direct supplies to Tskhinvali, the only South Ossetian city with gas supply infrastructure, are scheduled to begin in September.

On Wednesday South Ossetia and Abhkazia mark the first anniversary of Russia's recognition as independent states, which followed Georgia's August 8, 2008 attack on Tskhinvali. So far the only other country to have recognized the two republics is Nicaragua.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev told journalists on Wednesday that the decision to recognize the former Georgian republics as independent states was "legitimate in terms of the international law, just and absolutely necessary."

"In those circumstances no other decision could be made to protect the peoples of Abkhazia and South Ossetia," he said, adding that the decision was "irreversible, and we will abide by it."

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