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Russia says Ukrainian intelligence, outlawed group behind recent Crimea gas pipeline blast

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
In this file photo, a Russian construction worker is seen near a pipeline in Portovaya Bay, some 170 km northwest of St. Petersburg, Russia. (Via AP)

Russia's security service says Ukrainian military intelligence and an outlawed representative body of the Crimean Tatars orchestrated an attack on a gas pipeline in Crimea last month.

In a statement released on Tuesday, Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) said Ukraine's GUR military intelligence service and the so-called Mejlis had conspired to blow up the gas pipeline outside the city of Simferopol in Crimea on August 23.

The FBS said that the perpetrators had been promised a payment of around $2,000 by Ukraine's military intelligence.

"It has been established the sabotage was organized by a branch of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry's Main Intelligence Directorate in the city of Kherson... with the participation of the Mejlis...," the statement read.

Assailants damaged the gas pipeline that is used for supplying gas to a military unit and a nearby village. The gas pipeline's operation was restored the next day. A number of suspects were arrested over the past few days.

On Monday, a court in Crimea ordered Tatar leader Nariman Dzhelyalov to be held in custody for two months on suspicion of involvement in the incident. It launched a criminal case looking into sabotage, an offence that can carry a jail term of up to 15 years. Dzhelyalov, an ex-deputy chairman of the Mejlis, was arrested over the weekend.

Russia banned the Mejlis in 2016, branding it an "extremist" body.

Relations between Kyiv and Moscow collapsed after the outbreak of war between Ukrainian troops and ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine. Relations between Moscow and the West have also deteriorated since 2014, when Crimea voted in a referendum to fall under Russian sovereignty.


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