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Monday, January 23, 2006

Azerbaijan rescues Georgia, left without gas, electricity

BAKU, January 23 (RIA Novosti, Gerai Dadashev) - Azerbaijan has been supplying 4 million cu m of natural gas a day to the neighboring Caucasus republic of Georgia since supplies from Russia were cut following blasts on the trunk pipelines early Sunday, Azerbaijani state gas company Azerigaz said Monday. "We are supplying 4 million cu m of natural gas [to Georgia]," the company's press secretary Kamandar Eivazov said. "Therefore, Russia has increased supplies to Azerbaijan by three million cu m. "Georgia approached the Azerbaijani president, asking for help, and acting on the president's instruction, we [Azerigaz] started delivering gas to the fraternal republic," he said. Eivazov said natural gas began to be delivered to Georgia at 9:30p.m. local time (5:30p.n. GMT) Sunday. Two blasts on pipelines in North Ossetia, Russia's republic in the North Caucasus, cut gas supplies to Georgia and Armenia. Georgia was also left without electricity supplies from Russia as blasts also went off under transmission lines running from Russia to Georgia. Russia's Emergency Situations Ministry said Sunday that it would take at least two or three days to repair the pipelines. Russian police said Monday that five explosive devices had been planted to blow up the transmission lines. According to a law-enforcement officer in Russia's Southern Federal District, homemade bombs went off under the racks of three poles, sending two of them to the ground and cutting off wires for two kilometers. The blasts occurred at the Uchkulanskoye Gorge in the Karachai-Cherkessian Republic. Police discovered three devices containing about 12kg of plastic explosives under the third pole, which did not blow up. The inquiry into the incident and repair efforts are continuing. In an emotionally-charged response to the incident, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said the incidents were politically motivated and premeditated by Russia. Russia's Foreign Ministry immediately responded by dismissing the president's statements as "hysterics". Relations between Russia and Georgia deteriorated following a democratic revolution in the former Soviet republic in 2003. The popular uprising, known as the Rose Revolution, brought a pro-western government to power.

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