Authorities in the breakaway region of Luhansk, Ukraine, have deemed sabotage as the likely cause of a fire on a regional pipeline that left almost 13,000 people without gas supply amid a cold weather spell.

The region that proclaimed independence from Ukraine in 2014 and joined Russia last year – decisions which were not acknowledged internationally – receives its natural gas from Russia’s state-controlled gas giant Gazprom.

Regional gas operator Luhanskgaz said on its social media channel late Monday that urgent repairs at the accident site permitted the restoration of gas deliveries to all customers in disconnected areas.

In earlier messages, Luhanskgaz said the rupture of a 300-millimetre pipeline occurred in the Lutuginsky district, where the pipeline goes above ground to cross a local river.

The exact time of the accident is not known. However, the operator said the fire was discovered in the evening of 7 January.

Luhanskgaz said regional law enforcement authorities of the breakaway region are being assisted by the Investigative Committee in Moscow to determine the cause of the accident, which is preliminarily thought to be “an act of sabotage”.

The location of the fire is understood to be about 10 kilometres south of the city of Luhansk, where the gas arrives first after it crosses into the region from Russia.

The Lutuginsky district hosts mostly individual households that use gas for heating, with consumption understood to have risen in recent days as temperatures quickly dropped well below minus 10 degrees Celsius after a prolonged period of warm and damp weather.

Authorities in Kyiv have not commented on the incident. Luhanskgaz and authorities in the Luhansk region had avoided any finger-pointing by the time this story was published.

Earlier, Kyiv had rejected attempts by Gazprom to get the country’s gas importer and distributor, Naftogaz Ukrainy, to pay for gas that the Russian company delivers to the Luhansk and its neighbour, the Donetsk region.

According to the latest available disclosure from Gazprom, the company supplied 2.75 billion cubic metres of gas to Luhansk and Donetsk in 2019. The gas giant has been withholding information on the volume of such supplies since 2020.