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Russian gas transit via Ukraine falls 23 pct after Austria hub blast

KIEV, Dec 13 (Reuters) - Russian gas transit through Ukraine dropped 23 percent to 200 million cubic meters per day in the wake of an explosion at Austria's Baumgarten gas hub, a Ukrainian energy ministry official told Reuters on Wednesday.

But Maksim Belyavsky, aide to Ukraine's energy minister, added that Ukraine was now ready to ramp up pumping to levels seen before the blast.

The explosion on Tuesday killed one person and injured at least 18 others, prompting Italy to declare a state of emergency as flows from the strategic site were cut off. It also disrupted deliveries to Austria's southern and southeastern borders.

However, all transit lines at the hub were put back online before midnight, the co-head of Gas Connect Austria said on Austrian radio on Wednesday.

The Baumgarten site in eastern Austria, near Slovakia, is a major regional transfer point, taking natural gas from as far away as Russia and pumping it towards neighbors including Germany and Italy, its biggest recipient.

Russia pumped 85.5 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas via Ukraine in the first 11 months of this year, 16 percent more than in the same period of 2016.

Belyavsky said that supply to Ukrainian consumers would not be affected by the blast.

Ukraine, which previously imported gas from Russia, has switched to buying supplies from EU neighbors in an effort to increase its independence from Moscow following the 2014 annexation of Crimea.

Ukraine's state gas and oil firm Naftogaz said earlier this year that it had imported 7.1 bcm of natural gas in the first nine months of 2017, mainly from Slovakia. (Reporting by Pavel Polityuk; Editing by Joseph Radford)