Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) says it thwarted a plot by Ukrainian intelligence agencies to carry out "sabotage and terrorism" on the South Stream gas pipeline that supplies Russia’s natural gas through the Black Sea to the European continent.
“As a result of a set of investigative measures, [the FSB] prevented an attempt by Ukrainian special services to commit an act of sabotage and terrorism on the South Stream gas pipeline supplying energy resources to Turkey and Europe,” the security service said on Thursday.
It further stated that the Russian citizens "involved in the preparation and material support of the terrorist attack" had been taken into custody.
"They confiscated 4 magnetic mines, 4 kg of plastic explosives, delayed-action fuses, 593,000 rubles and means of communication containing correspondence and negotiations with an overseer from the intelligence services of Ukraine, instructions for assembling and installing an explosive device, as well as for the transfer of funds and the coordinates of the site of the explosion in the Volgograd Region," the FSB added, giving details of the operation.
South Stream, originally intended to transport Russian gas under the Black Sea to the Bulgarian coast, was scrapped in 2014 in favor of TurkStream, which makes landfall in Turkey and can supply gas to Hungary and Bulgaria.
It came around two months after the Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines were hit by unexplained leaks. Russia accused the United Kingdom of 'directing and coordinating' explosions on the gas pipelines on the floor of the Baltic Sea.
The preliminary results of a Sweden-Denmark probe showed that the blasts had been "intentional sabotage."
EU working ‘full speed’ on new Russia sanctions package
In a separate development on Thursday, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said the bloc was pressing ahead with a ninth sanctions package against Russia in response to its military operation in Ukraine, now into its tenth month.
"We are working hard to hit Russia where it hurts to blunt even further its capacity to wage war on Ukraine and I can announce today that we are working full speed on a ninth sanctions package," Von der Leyen told a news conference during a visit to Finland.
The European Commission chief did not provide details of what measures the new round of EU sanctions could entail.
"I also know our Ukranian friends will overcome this tragedy because they are strong and their cause is just and we, the EU, stand here by them in these very difficult times as long as it takes," Von der Leyen added.
The announcement came a day after the European Parliament adopted a resolution designating Russia as a “state sponsor of terrorism” over the war in Ukraine.
“Russia is a terrorist state: confirmed by the European Parliament. Russia has a history of acts of terror against sovereign states, support for terrorist regimes and organisations including Wagner, war of terror on Ukraine,” Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted, thanking the European Parliament.
Moscow reacted angrily to the provocative decision by the European Parliament later on Wednesday, with foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova saying, "I propose designating the European Parliament as a sponsor of idiocy."
Russia launched a military operation in Ukraine in late February, following Kiev’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements and Moscow’s recognition of the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.
At the time, Russian President Vladimir Putin said one of the goals of what he called a “special military operation” was to “de-Nazify” Ukraine.
Since the military offensive, the United States and its European allies have imposed unprecedented economic sanctions against Moscow while supplying large consignments of heavy weaponry to Kiev. The Kremlin has time and again warned the sanctions and the supplies will only prolong the war.