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Gas lines hit by military shells in eastern Ukraine

Area was the scene of the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.

By Daniel J. Graeber
Gas lines hit by military shells in eastern Ukraine
Russian media report gas lines in rebel-held eastern Ukraine were hit by Ukrainian artillery. Pictured, Ukrainian special forces participate in night exercises outside the parliament building in Kiev on May 1, 2014, to prepare for a possible Russian invasion as tensions escalate in eastern Ukraine. File photo by Ivan Vakolenko/UPI | License Photo

KIEV, Ukraine, Aug. 19 (UPI) -- Russian media Friday reported three natural gas pipelines in the self-proclaimed eastern Ukrainian republic of Donetsk were damaged by artillery fire.

A regional gas distributor reported damage to gas pipelines in eastern Ukraine, damage Russian news agency Tass attributed to likely action from the Ukrainian military.

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Military authorities in the eastern Ukrainian republic said forces aligned with the government in Kiev used rocket launchers to attack rival positions in the region. The company said shell fragments hit the pipelines, resulting in a brief fire. Repairs were made early Friday, Russian media reported.

The rebel-held territory in Donetsk was the scene of heavy fighting in 2014 as Ukraine was upended by political turmoil that followed a bid to align more closely with the European Union.

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Royal Dutch Shell in early 2013 signed agreements to produce gas from the Kharkiv and Donetsk regions of Ukraine. Kiev estimated Shell was targeting an area said to contain about 4 trillion cubic feet of shale natural gas. Shell pulled back, however, as geopolitical conflicts intensified.

In the wake of the Ukrainian pivot, the U.S. government imposed sanctions against Russian independent oil company Rosneft, Russian independent gas producer Novatek and the financial arm of Russian natural gas company Gazprom.

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Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crashed in July 2014 near the eastern Ukrainian border with Russia, an area of operations for pro-Russian separatists. The U.S. government said there was a growing body of evidence to suggest Russia may be tied to the downing of the passenger jet, killing all 283 passengers and 15 crew on board.

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