A major natural gas pipeline exploded in central Ukraine on Tuesday, a day after the Russian energy behemoth Gazprom said that it was cutting off supplies to Ukraine in a dispute over pricing, and officials immediately labeled it a possible act of sabotage.
Utility officials said that natural gas deliveries were not interrupted and that supplies to Ukrainian customers and other European countries were flowing through alternative pipes.
The blast occurred in a sparsely populated area of the Poltava region, which lies between Kiev, the capital, and the embattled regions of eastern Ukraine where a civil war is effectively underway between pro-Russian separatists and the Ukrainian military. Video from the scene showed a huge plume of fire shooting hundreds of feet into the sky.
The explosion destroyed a section of the Urengoy-Pomary-Uzhgorod pipeline, which runs more than 1,800 miles from Russia’s Arctic north through Ukraine to the border of Slovakia. Ukraine’s interior minister, Arsen Avakov, issued a statement saying investigators’ leading theory was that the attack was deliberate.