An explosion has struck a pipeline in the central Ukrainian Poltava region. Witnesses say flames from the blast are up to 200 meter high.
“The explosion occurred at about 14:45 local time in a field,” the local police press-service said in a statement. Due to the “flame and the high temperatures,” it was “impossible to get closer to the epicenter.”
The “Brotherhood” natural gas pipeline (Urengoy-Pomary-Uzhgorod) is about one kilometer away from the nearest settlement.
Pipeline faucets have been temporary turned off, but transit of Russian gas to Europe is being realized through a reserve pipeline.
A preliminary investigation found the explosion was caused by ‘pipeline depressurization’.
Ukraine’s Interior Ministry also cites possible “terrorism” – based on locals “hearing two loud booms before the fire.”
But within just an hour of the blast Ukraine’s acting Interior Minister Arsen Avakov blamed Russia.
Operating since 1967, the “Brotherhood” is the largest consumer gas pipeline in Europe, clocking in at 4,451 km. It cuts through Ukraine and runs into Slovakia, where it diverges in two directions; with one part supplying gas to the Czech Republic, Germany, France and Switzerland, and the other to Austria, Italy, Hungary and several countries in the Balkans.