TBILISI (AFP)–Russia has begun to cut off gas supplies to the Georgian capital of Tbilisi–amid escalating tensions with its neighbor over the pro-Russia’separatist region of South Ossetia.
Tbilisi officials confirmed on Thursday that Russia’s Gazprom energy giant began to limit supplies on Wednesday and that four of the city’s regions would be left without gas by Thursday evening.
The Tbilgaz official said Gazprom was demanding paymen’s from the impoverished republic that dated back half a year.
"Tbilisi needs 370,000 cubic meters of gas and now we will only be getting 200,000 cubic meters," Tbilgaz’s Leval Pertselatse said by telephone.
Georgia is exclusively reliant on Russia for gas supplies and has for years struggled to pay its debts.
But the latest delivery cut came during the current rift between Moscow and Tbilisi in regards to the South Ossetian conflict.
Gazprom–a Russian state-controlled company–has previously cut supplies to Ukraine and Belarus on Russia’s western border during diplomatic disputes with the two former Soviet republics.
The move comes at a time when both Russia and Georgia are widening their military presence in South Ossetia–and only a day after Tbilisi threatened to break a 1992 peacekeeping agreement. The agreement was signed after Georgia lost to South Ossetian forces–which had received military assistance from Moscow. The region then declared its desire to become part of Russia.
Georgia’s border with South Ossetia is now patrolled by Russian–Georgian and South Ossetian troops. All sides claim that the others are sending additional supplies and reinforcemen’s in breach of the agreement.
Earlier this week–Georgia accused Russia of sending 40 armored personnel carriers and tanks destined for the South Ossetian forces. Russia denied the accusation and said the supplies were intended for vehicle repairs.