Russia to build gas pipeline to Georgian region

MOSCOW, Nov 17 (Reuters) - Russian gas giant Gazprom said on Monday it would build a pipeline directly to Georgia’s rebel region of South Ossetia because of problems with natural gas supplies to the enclave after a war with Georgia.

Gazprom GAZP.MMGAZPq.L, a state controlled behemoth that has the world's biggest natural gas reserves, said the new pipeline was needed because the current pipeline goes through the territory of Georgia proper.

“No-one thought that a direct gas pipeline would be needed, but one is now being built and will only be turned on in the middle of next year,” Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov told Echo Moskvy radio.

When asked if gas supplies to South Ossetia had been affected, he said: “according to the information we have, yes.”

Kupriyanov said the pipeline had been damaged and added that supplies were complicated by the fact that Gazprom had no direct transit agreement with Georgia for gas supplies through its territory to South Ossetia.

Russia fought a short war with Georgia in August after Tbilisi sent troops and tanks to retake the pro-Russian rebel region of South Ossetia.

Russian troops drove Georgia out of the enclave and pushed into Georgia proper before recognising South Ossetia and another rebel region, Abkhazia, as independent states. (Reporting by Katya Golubkova, writing by Guy Faulconbridge, editing by Marguerita Choy)