TBILISI, Georgia, Aug. 22 (UPI) -- Russian media reported Monday that suspected terrorists in the former Soviet republic of Georgia were arrested for plotting attacks on area gas pipelines.
Referencing statements from security forces in Georgia, Russian news agency Tass reported Monday that five people were arrested for gathering weapons and explosives "with the goal of carrying out a terrorist attack."
According to the state-run news service, the suspects were plotting an attack on a section of a natural gas pipeline carrying Russian natural gas to Armenia. The target was said to be about 12 miles outside the nation's capital, Tbilisi.
In 2014, Georgia opened a transport terminal for a pipeline tied to infrastructure associated with the Shah Deniz gas field off the coast of Azerbaijan, a field that Europe views as a means to diversify a natural gas market dependent on Russia. For Georgia, it's part of a broader shift away from the Kremlin.
The region in Eastern Europe has seen conflicts in the past centered in part on Russian energy infrastructure. Georgia in 2008 launched a military attack on the self-proclaimed republic of South Ossetia, sending ripples through the regional energy sector due to the proximity of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, the second longest in the world.
South Ossetia and Abkhazia are two breakaway republics that aligned more closely with the Kremlin after claiming independence from Georgia. Russian energy company Gazprom in 2009 commissioned a pipeline designed to provide a direct link between South Ossetia and Russian natural gas supplies.
Three natural gas pipelines in the self-proclaimed eastern Ukrainian republic of Donetsk were damaged by artillery fire last week. The territory 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.