Tuesday, 25 March 2014
Kiev Blamed for Blackout in Capital of Crimea
SIMFEROPOL, Crimea — A power failure plunged much of the Crimean capital, Simferopol, into darkness on Monday, the second partial blackout in two days, as the Ukrainian government in Kiev appeared to retaliate against Russia’s occupation and annexation of the peninsula by sharply cutting electricity supplied from the mainland. Homes and businesses went dark across a large swath of the city, underscoring the vulnerability of the geographically isolated peninsula, which is dependent on mainland Ukraine for many vital services, including electricity and much of its water supply. Officials here and in Moscow had anticipated such a move by the Ukrainian government. In recent days, regional officials said they had acquired 900 generators to provide electricity to vital buildings, including hospitals. It was not immediately clear if those generators were in use. The state-run Ukrainian national energy company, Ukrenergo, issued a statement attributing the blackouts in Crimea to emergency repairs to two major transmission lines. Another company, DTEK Krymenergo, which delivers most of the electricity used in Crimea, said the transmission line had been disconnected for repairs, forcing it to sharply reduce the supply of energy. After an initial blackout in Simferopol on Sunday evening, regional officials immediately blamed the government in Kiev. In Moscow, Prime Minister Dmitri A. Medvedev said Crimea’s reliance on the mainland was a major risk and also seemed to blame Kiev for the blackouts. At a government meeting, Mr. Medvedev said in the short term the issue should be settled “at international talks,” but he also urged Russian ministries to begin work in Crimea as soon as possible. “Another infrastructure problem is Crimea’s dependence on Ukrainian power and water supplies,” Mr. Medvedev said, according to an official transcript. “This dependence periodically makes itself felt, including last night” President Vladimir V. Putin has ordered officials to begin work quickly on a bridge to connect mainland Russia and the Crimean port of Kerch, but that project will take years and cost $3 billion to $5 billion. The blackouts came as the acting president of Ukraine, Oleksandr V. Turchynov, formally ordered the withdrawal of the remaining Ukrainian forces in Crimea, ending an increasingly futile effort by some troops to hold on to their bases after Russia’s annexation of the territory. The Ukrainian military has been virtually powerless in the face of the incursion late last month by Russian special forces and other units. In recent days, there was a steady capitulation as Russian units seized base after base. Some Ukrainian commanders who were detained were still unaccounted for on Monday, including Col. Yuli Mamchur, a leader of a base at Belbek, near the Sevastopol airport.