Fuel pipeline to Armenia blown up again

February 12, 1993|By Los Angeles Times

MOSCOW -- A gas pipeline supplying the only fuel to Armenia exploded again yesterday, forcing the besieged republic to shiver through a fierce snowstorm without heat or light.

The Armenian government said the 4 a.m. blast tore a 6-foot gap in the newly repaired pipeline in the same mountainous region of neighboring Georgia where the pipe blew up Jan. 23. Saboteurs trying to tighten a wartime blockade of Armenia were suspected in both acts.

Reacting to the January incident, Armenian forces backed by warplanes and heavy artillery launched a major offensive last Friday in their undeclared war against Azerbaijan, seizing 11 settlements in the disputed mountain enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Azerbaijan, which claimed to have recaptured at least three settlements in a counterattack, accused Armenians of planting a bomb that crippled one of its rail lines Monday. Armenia in turn blamed Azerbaijaini shelling for killing nine civilians Wednesday, the latest of about 2,500 deaths in five years of bloodshed.

Fighting between the former Soviet republics has plunged Armenia's 3.4 million people into three straight winters of miserable fuel shortages. In this harshest of winters, schools are closed, hospitals and maternity wards are without heat, bread is rationed and prices are soaring. Forests and city parks are being stripped bare for firewood.

In Yerevan, the capital, where feeble gas pressure had returned to homes just two days ago and electricity was back on for an hour or two a day, people woke up in 10-degree cold yesterday with neither. The city's already crippled subway trains shut down completely, as did electrically pumped water supplies and most telephones.

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