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19 Feb, 2022 08:01

Gas company comments on blast amid escalation in eastern Ukraine

An explosion in the self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic was reported around midnight

A gas company from the self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR) in eastern Ukraine has said that the blasts at a local pipeline were manmade.

“After assessing the damage, [we can say] that the cause of explosions is a sabotage,” Tatyana Bogorodko, the director of Luganskgaz, said on Saturday.

The first blast was reported in the village of Malaya Vergunka outside Lugansk shortly after midnight. The second explosion occurred at a pipeline in Lugansk itself around half an hour later, the company said, adding that dozens of homes have been cut off from the gas supply.

Officials in the LPR and the neighboring Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) reported massive shelling and explosions on Friday and early Saturday morning.

DPR military spokesman Eduard Basurin told reporters that roughly 200 shells were fired by Kiev on Friday, while the breakaway region’s forces prevented three diversions. He added that the shelling occurred in many places across the frontline separating DPR forces from the Ukrainian Army.

DPR officials said that a pumping station was damaged by mortar shells, while RIA Novosti reported that artillery fire from the Ukrainian side destroyed a railway connecting Donetsk with Debaltsevo.

Fearing further escalation, the authorities in Donetsk and Lugansk began the evacuation of civilians to Russia on Friday. Both republics declared mobilization on Saturday.

The Ukrainian military said the “Russian occupation forces” – a term they use to describe the DPR and LPR – violated the ceasefire 66 times on Friday, shelling multiple places along the frontline.

Alexey Danilov, the secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, denied that Kiev is planning a full-blown assault on the breakaway regions. “There are no orders to liberate our territories by force,” Danilov told reporters at a press conference on Friday, adding that the move would result in “major civilian casualties.”

“That’s why such an order can’t be issued in our country,” he said.

Reports of cross-border fire come amid continuing tensions between Russia and NATO regarding Ukraine. US President Joe Biden said on Friday night that Moscow was “planning to and intend to attack Ukraine in the coming week – in the coming days.”

Russia has repeatedly denied plans to attack its neighbor and accused the West of stirring up tensions.