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Gazprom says flow of gas to Europe uninterrupted

FILE - In this Wednesday May 21, 2014 file photo, a Ukrainian worker operates a valve in a gas storage point in Bil
FILE - In this Wednesday May 21, 2014 file photo, a Ukrainian worker operates a valve in a gas storage point in Bil 'che-Volicko-Ugerske underground gas storage facilities in Strij, outside Lviv, Ukraine. Russia on Monday, June 16, 2014, cut gas supplies to Ukraine as a payment deadline passed and negotiators failed to reach a deal on gas prices and unpaid bills amid continued fighting in eastern Ukraine. The decision does not immediately affect the gas flow to Europe, but could disrupt the long-term energy supply to the region if the issue is not resolved, analysts said. (AP Photo/Sergei Chuzavkov, file)
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By Nataliya Vasilyeva, The Associated Press

MOSCOW - An explosion at a key pipeline in Ukraine has not disrupted the flow of gas to Europe, Russian gas monopoly Gazprom said on Wednesday.

The blast, which occurred Tuesday far from where government troops are fighting pro-Russia separatists, came a day after Russia cut gas supplies to Ukraine in a dispute over price and overdue payments.

Moscow says it is waiting for Kyiv to pay at least $1.9 billion of its $4.5 billion debt before the talks on clearing the debt and agreeing on prices could resume. Gazprom said Monday that it would need to start pumping by mid-October to insure adequate winter supplies for Ukraine.

Vitaly Markelov, Gazprom's deputy chief executive, told reporters on Wednesday that gas flows had not been disrupted and that European customers are receiving the contracted amounts.

Markelov refused to speculate on the cause but said poor maintenance of pipelines in Ukraine makes such accidents more likely.

"I think they will continue to occur because the network needs to be maintained well," he said.

Ukrainian officials say terrorism has not been ruled out as the cause of the explosion. The energy ministry speculated that the blast could be linked to the halt of gas supplies to Ukraine.

The ministry said in a statement on Wednesday that it has "grounds to believe" that "the blast was caused by sabotage" intended to discredit Ukraine as a transit country. The ministry did not provide any evidence to support the claim.

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