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Putin Sends FSB To Secure Caucasus Energy Plants

23 January 2006 -- Russian President Vladimir Putin today instructed the FSB federal security service to boost security at all energy facilities in the Caucasus.

Putin announced the move after explosions in the Russian republic of North Ossetia yesterday knocked out the main pipeline carrying natural gas to Georgia and Armenia.

"I would like the Interior Ministry to take note of this,” Putin said. “I have just spoken to the director of the FSB [Nikolai Patrushev] and [given him instructions] to step up security at energy facilities in the Caucasus. A gas pipeline was blown up in Dagestan last year. And this year, as far as I've heard, these pipelines were also blown up. The prosecutors have launched a criminal investigation and this investigation must be completed."

Russian investigators are probing whether anti-Russian militants were responsible for the blasts.

Georgian officials say gas shipments to Tbilisi were partially resumed today after Azerbaijan started forwarding Russian gas supplies to Georgia. It is expected to take several days for gas supplies to be resumed across the rest of Georgia.

Georgian officials have accused Russia of deliberately triggering an energy crisis in an attempt to manipulate domestic politics in Tbilisi.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has strongly denied that.

(Reuters, ITAR-TASS)

Copyright (c) 2006. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org

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