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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia Resumes Gas to Georgia

APPeople shopping for wood-burning stoves at a Tbilisi market on Saturday.
TBILISI, Georgia -- Russia resumed pumping gas again to Georgia on Sunday after finishing repairs to a major pipeline that was damaged by a mysterious blast a week earlier, but tensions remained at boiling point between the two countries.

The Caucasus Mountains state has accused Russia of waging an energy blockade against it after a Jan. 22 explosion tore through the main pipeline that transports Russian gas to Georgia, leaving millions of Georgians shivering in their homes in bitterly cold temperatures.

The misery was compounded by major electricity blackouts after the severe winter weather downed power lines and a unit at a power station in Tbilisi went out of action.

Prime Minister Zurab Nogaideli on Sunday announced that Russian gas had begun flowing into Georgia and said the first apartment buildings in the capital, Tbilisi, would start getting supplies later that day.

But he repeated charges that Russia deliberately delayed repairs to the pipeline that runs through the Russian border region of North Ossetia. In Moscow, meanwhile, the Foreign Ministry issued a blistering statement accusing Tbilisi of cutting off gas to the Russian Embassy building in retaliation, describing it as "yet another anti-Russian action."

Natia Bandzeladze, a spokeswoman for the Georgian national gas company, said that it would take a couple of days for full supplies to be restored throughout the country.

The gas and electricity crisis forced desperate Georgians to line up for kerosene and firewood to heat their homes amid the largest snowfall in years as daytime temperatures fell to minus 8 degrees Celsuis.

In a bid to find alternative energy sources, Georgian officials announced a deal on Friday for Iran to supply gas through Azerbaijan. The contract for a daily delivery of 2 million cubic meters will run only over a 30-day period, but Georgia hopes to agree on a long-term arrangement to reduce its dependence on Russia. The Georgian energy minister said deliveries should start within days and meet 80 percent to 90 percent of Tbilisi's energy needs.