MOSCOW, June 17 (RIA Novosti) – A pipeline pumping natural gas from Russia to Ukraine was hit by an explosion near the town of Lohvitsa in central Ukraine, local media reported Tuesday with reference to regional police.
“According to witnesses, the flame [from the pipeline] shot up to the height of about 200 meters. No casualties have been reported so far,” a police statement said, as cited by Ukrainian 112.ua online news outlet.
The Ukrainian Interior Ministry said the fire at the pipeline resulting from the explosion has not yet been put out.
“The fire is still being extinguished, valves on both sides [of the border] are being closed, investigators are heading to the site,” a source in the Interior Ministry told RIA Novosti.
The Urengoi-Pomary-Uzhgorod pipeline is one of Russia’s main natural gas export pipelines, partially owned and operated by Ukraine, with export destinations all over Europe from Slovakia to Italy.
The explosion comes after Ukraine stopped receiving gas from Russia on Monday, except for the daily 185 million cubic meters intended for further transit to Europe, as Gazprom had followed through on its prepayment plan for the delivery of Russian fuel to Ukraine’s Naftogaz over the company’s sizeable debt.