KIEV, March 17 (RIA Novosti) – Ukraine’s National Guard and Security Service have stepped up measures to protect natural gas pipelines across the country, the country’s Interior Ministry said Monday.
On Sunday, Ukrainian media reported that the leader of the radical nationalist party Pravy Sektor (Right Sector) along with opposition leader Dmitry Yarosh threatened to sabotage the country’s gas transit system in the event of a potential hot conflict breaking out with Russia.
“The National Guard and Security Service of Ukraine have put in place special protective measures concerning the gas transmission and distribution system of Ukraine,” officials said Monday. “This decision was made to ensure the safety and smooth operation of critical infrastructure in the country.”
About a third of Russian gas exports to Europe transit through Ukraine on their way to heat homes and power industries across the continent.
Officials in Crimea have also expressed worry about the gas transit system, as the peninsula, which voted Sunday to secede from the country, relies on energy and water imports across the narrow isthmus connecting the region to mainland Ukraine.
Helicopter-borne masked men dispatched from Crimea reportedly seized a gas distribution center just outside the region’s boundaries over the weekend. Crimean authorities alleged that Ukrainian forces intended to sabotage the plant to cut off gas supplies to parts of the peninsula.