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Ukraine to shut down transit gas pipeline to Europe after arms depot blasts

Ukrtransgaz has decided to shut down a pipeline running near the town of Balakliya in Kharkov Region where an arms depot blasted early in the morning. Most probably, it is about the biggest route of the Russian gas transit to Europe via Ukraine.

Ukrtransgaz has put its emergency units on high alert and started switching gas flows to other routes. The distance from the pipeline to the arms depot is 4 km, while the safety zone is behind 5 km, spokesman for the company Maxim Belyavsky wrote in his Facebook account.

He did not specify what pipeline he meant, but according to the map of the Ukrainian gas transporting system, two transit main gas pipelines are laid near Balakliya. One of them is in a four-kilometer distance from the exploding depot. It is a main from the Russian Valuyki gas metering station. According to Ukrtransgaz, on March 21, about 21 mn c m of gas was pumped through this station from Russia to Europe, which is 10 percent of the total daily transit.

“If this is really that transit gas pipeline, the situation is relatively serious. If Gazprom agrees, Ukrtransgaz will have to re-route a rather large amount of gas,” says Dmitry Marunich, co-chair of the Energy Strategies Foundation. “The key question is how long the munitions will be exploding. If the gas pipeline is stopped for more than two or three days, this will harm the economics of the company, moreover, it will pose certain risks to functioning of the whole national gas transporting system,” the expert notes.

Today, the Russian gas is transmitted to Europe via Ukraine through four gas pipelines. Three of them cross Kharkov Region, the other one is laid through Sumy Region.

Early in the morning, munitions started blasting at the Ukrainian defense ministry arms depot in Balakliya. About 20,000 people have been evacuated from the town and nearby villages. Many residents are hiding in basements. At noon, new blasts occurred at the depot, the fire is not being extinguished, Ukraine’s Chief Military Prosecutor Anatoly Matios says. According to him, the explosion was an act of sabotage. As Matios wrote in Facebook, the risk zone is up to 7 km to the depot.

The Ukrainian State Border Service has toughened border control at the southeastern direction.

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