Ukraine Live Day 310: Blackout in Crimea as Power Supply Halted from Ukraine

December 24, 2014
Power outage in Russian-occupied Sevastopol, Crimea on December 24, 2014. Photo by NTV

Yesterday’s live coverage of the Ukraine conflict can be found here. An archive of our liveblogs can be found here. For an overview and analysis of this developing story see our latest podcast.

Please help The Interpreter to continue providing this valuable information service by making a donation towards our costs.

View Ukraine: April, 2014 in a larger map
For links to individual updates click on the timestamps.

For the latest summary of evidence surrounding the shooting down of flight MH17 see our separate article: Evidence Review: Who Shot Down MH17?

Why Ukraine Cut Electricity to Crimea Today

As we’ve been reporting today, Ukraine cut power for to the entire Crimean peninsula for an extended period of time this morning. Power has since been restored. Ukraine said that the shut-off was the result of Crimea going over its allotted usage.

But Ukraine has also been complaining that it is the Russian-backed separatists who have disrupted supplies of coal, one of Ukraine’s chief sources of electricity.

The entire episode highlights a reality in Ukraine which many in the West may find surprising — Ukraine continuously supplies electricity, water, and other utilities and supplies to both territory controlled by Russian-backed militants and to Crimea, occupied by Russian troops. This continues for several reasons. The most important reason, perhaps, is that Ukraine considers these territories to be part of the country, and so it cannot halt these deliveries without symbolically signalling that it has given up its stake to these lands.

It’s also likely a consideration that if Ukraine stopped providing utilities to these locations, it would force Russia to take even more drastic efforts to pick up the slack and restore power.

Regardless, the entire country has been faced with rolling blackouts since the disruption of coal supplies and disputes about the costs of Russian natural gas have heavily impacted Ukraine’s ability to generate enough electricity. Ukraine has been warning for some time that both Crimea and rebel-held areas in the Donbass have been using too much electricity, and their supplies may be cut. Now Kiev is making good on the threat.

But there may be something more going on here — with the Russian government saddled with a significant economic crisis, the Ukrainian government may be sensing that now is the time to push back against Russia, and one way to do that is to cut back on utilities supplied to territory occupied by Russian soldiers and the militants which they support.

James Miller

Power Back on in Crimea, But Prime Minister Warns of Interruptions in Service
The power has been turned back on throughout the Crimea, following an outage for hours when Ukraine turned of the electricity to the peninsula, Novoye Vremya reported.

Crimea went over the agreed limit for its usage, Ukrainian Energy Minister Vladimir Demchishin said today at a government meeting, Ukrainska Pravda reported (translated by The Interpreter):

During a fairly significant period this morning the Crimean Peninsula was turned off. After that, literally just now it was turned back on. And we hope that consumers in Crimea will hold to the limits that were agreed.

“Any overage will be restricted,” he warned.

The issue is not payments, but the system’s capacity. Ukraine’s Prime Minister Yatsenyuk told Interfax-Ukraine.

The situation remains very complicated, and if the temperature regimes go down, that means that the usage of coal will increase immediately and blackouts will be massive.

Russia and Ukraine signed an agreement December 22 providing electricity produced in Russia to occupied Crimea through Ukrainian territory.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
Demonstrators in Kharkiv Demand Entry to City Council, Block Roads to City

There is unrest in Kharkiv today as a group of activists demonstrated outside city hall to try to get into a meeting of legislators, and blocked roads outside the city.

Police reinforcements have been brought in.

The LiveJournal blogger emelamud and Twitter users @OlgaK2013 and @itsector have been live-blogging the scene.

The action is similar to a demonstration outside the Regional State Administration building in Kharkiv on December 6, where 7 police were injured, although no reports of injuries have been received from Kharkiv.

Translation: Kharkov. At the exit from Kharkiv, activists have blocked the road to get the police to come to the checkpoint and guard the city.

Беспорядки у харьковского городского совета (онлайн-трансляция)

В предыдущей заметке я описал ситуацию перед горсоветом. А закончил я этим твитом. Вот как чувствовал, что это начало чего-то большего… Здесь я буду вести…

View full page >

Dec 24, 2014 15:47 (GMT)

Translation: Kharkov. One of the demonstrators has been knocked off his feet. It is not known yet who did that.
Translation: The information is confirmed. Skorobogach is in the building. The activists are holding the corridor.

Vladimir Skorobogach (Volodymyr Skorobagach) is a Kharkiv politician associated with the discredited Party of Regions and deposed president Viktor Yanukovych.

Translation: Activists are trying to break through to the pharmacy. The police does not let them in. Reinforcements have come, about 20.

Skorobogach tried to hide in the drug store from the demonstrators.

Translation: Skorobaogach’s security are trying to conduct negotiations. Without any result.

Translation: There’s a serious fight between the police and the activists. There’s a huge number of titushki.

Translation: Activists want to push out the titushki and then already take out Skorobogach, right into the trash can.

Titishki is the word used by Ukrainians to describe street thugs who carry out orders of police or create provocations
against demonstrators.

Translation: Activists are waiting for Skorobogach to come out. An egg flew at the head of our journalist during the clash.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Power Outage Throughout Crimea
There is a power outage throughout the entire Crimean peninsula today, TASS and Unian report.

Sergei Yegorov, minister of fuel and energy for the self-declared Republic of Crimea, told TASS:

“An hour ago, unilaterally from Ukraine, the electricity supply to the Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol was completely cut off. On all four lines, to zero.

Negotiations are underway with Ukraine so that they resume the electrical supply of the republic.”

According to Kryminform, not a single city on the peninsula, including Simferopol, has electricity today, and the main communications lines, including special lines, are down as well. Mobile phones are not working.

NTV has broadcast footage of darkened streetlights and people walking in the streets.

On December 23, Sergey Aksyonov, the head of occupied Crimea, told journalists that Russia had signed a contract with Ukraine on power transit to the territory of the Crimea. He said that no outage was foreseen because the bill was paid in full to Ukraine.

Earlier on December 21, Yegorov warned that power supply to the peninsula may suffer “unpredictable limitations,” not only due to the issue of payments, but because “Kiev does not have enough power to generate electricity” and technical problems may result.

The Crimea depends 70-90% on Ukraine during peak usage times.

Translation: Simferopol today.

The author includes a clip from the 1988 Soviet movie Heart of a Dog based on the novel by Mikhail Bulgakov.

Translation: Ukraine has completely cut Crimea off from electrical supply. #Mordor #CrimeaisOurs #We’redonefor

This Twitter user has made a play on words from the popular Russian nationalist slogan Krymnash, “Crimea is Ours,” and juggled the letters to make the phrase namkrysh that means “we’re done for.”