As Sabotage Blacks Out Crimea, Tatars Prevent Repairs

Video Residents in Crimea talk about how energy failures are affecting their lives soon after the power supply from Ukraine was cut off.

November 23, 2015

MOSCOW — Crimean Tatar activists and Ukrainian nationalists on Monday prevented repair crews from restoring the major power lines in southern Ukraine that provide Crimea, leaving the disputed peninsula in the dark and Ukraine and Russia headed toward a standoff more than the problem.

The power lines had been knocked down by saboteurs on Sunday, forcing millions of residents to live with no electrical energy.

The Tatar activists who blockaded the damaged internet site stated they would thwart repairs till Russia released political prisoners and allowed international organizations to monitor human rights in Crimea. The activists say that the 300,000-member Tatar minority has faced systematic repression because Russia annexed the peninsula in March 2014.

President Petro O. Poroshenko of Ukraine, with out mentioning the electrical energy cutoff directly, appeared to endorse the confrontation.

Soon after a meeting with the foreign ministers of Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, Mr. Poroshenko echoed the demands of the Tatar protesters, saying that the international community ought to function to release arrested activists, restore Crimean Tatar broadcasts and reverse the exile of Tatar leaders.

“We are not happy with today’s status quo when the occupational authorities neglect standard rights of Crimea Tatars,” Mr. Poroshenko stated, before creating an indirect reference to the destruction of the electrical energy lines. “These irresponsible actions brought on important escalation between the activists and occupational authorities.”

Mr. Poroshenko also released a letter on Monday that he had first sent to the Ukrainian cabinet on Nov. four, calling on the prime minister to study the query of halting all freight transport to and from Crimea.

The sudden release of the letter practically 20 days right after he sent it also seemed to offer a subtle endorsement of the electricity protest.

In Moscow, Dmitri S. Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, reacted calmly, saying that he was unaware of any timetable to repair the lines but that he hoped that Ukraine would take “rapid measures” to do the perform.

President Vladimir V. Putin, who was traveling to a meeting of gas exporters in Iran, did not immediately comment. He was unlikely to take kindly to Ukraine disrupting life for all of Crimea, however, given that he has created its absorption into Russia something of a individual project.

Sergei V. Aksyonov, the Kremlin-appointed prime minister of the Crimean Republic, was far more exercised, calling the energy cutoff “a terrorist act” in a statement on Monday.

“I would urge Crimeans to be patient and to see what our scenario is,” Mr. Aksyonov stated. “Nobody will be permitted to blackmail us in order to resolve any concerns.”

Ukraine still claims the peninsula, and its senior officials have been perturbed that its seizure by Russia has seemingly dropped off the international agenda, rating a fleeting mention at greatest anytime the crisis more than fighting in southeastern Ukraine is discussed.

The situation of supplies coming from Ukraine has been a repeated source of tension, as meals, water and electrical energy nevertheless flow from the mainland to the peninsula. A significant irrigation canal was shut down in 2014, but substantial rainfall and other neighborhood sources prevented severe damage to crops this year. In September, Tatar and other activists tried to blockade the primary road top from Crimea to Ukraine, disrupting meals supplies.

Crimea’s only other surface link to the outdoors world is a ferry line to Russia, with limited capacity. Russia plans to create an huge bridge, but that would not be completed for at least 3 years.

It was not quickly clear who destroyed the principal electric pylons on Friday and Sunday, but the blasted away stump of at least a single near the demonstrators was wrapped in the distinctive Crimean Tatar flag, blue with a yellow trident in the upper left-hand corner.

Video shown by the ATR network, a Tatar television station now operating in Ukraine soon after its principal channel in Crimea was forced to close, showed Tatar activists tackling the particular Ukrainian police units trying to acquire access for repair crews.

The leadership of each the Crimean Tatars, forced into exile by Russia, and a appropriate-wing nationalist group, Right Sector, endorsed the destruction with out claiming duty.

Mustafa A. Dzhemilev, the leader of the Crimean Tatar minority, told the Ukrainian news site Lega.net that the energy pylons “could have been blown away by the wind.”

“Why ought to we provide the invader with every thing he wants?” asked Mr. Dzhemilev, a member of the Ukrainian Parliament. “If they have occupied our territory, then we must smoke them out.”

Mr. Dzhemilev said those blockading the web site would permit repairs to the power lines that supply electricity to the surrounding location in the Ukrainian region of Kherson, but not to Crimea.

Prime Minister Arseniy P. Yatsenyuk of Ukraine stated he would commence negotiations with Tatar representatives on Monday to try to permit repair crews to start to function, but there were no instant outcomes from the discussions.

Russian officials said the energy provide could be restored in two hours soon after the trunk lines are repaired. Senior officials at Ukrenergo, which runs Ukraine’s energy grid, said it would take 3 to four days to rebuild the pylons.

4 nearby power plants, which includes two nuclear ones, scaled back production since they had no signifies to distribute the electricity, Ukrenergo mentioned.

Far more than 1.6 million men and women nonetheless lacked energy on Monday morning, Russia’s Power Ministry stated in a statement. Nearby energy plants in Crimea, as properly as backup generators, were getting used to provide energy to hospitals, schools and other vital facilities.

Russian news media played down the effects of the blockade, noting that balmy climate situations created heating unnecessary. The Ukrainian news media painted a bleaker picture, emphasizing that cellphones and most gas stations were out of service. Images from Crimea showed extended lines forming at gas stations and bakeries, and vendors selling candles on street corners.

The Crimean authorities declared Monday a day off for nongovernment workers and declared a state of emergency, which can final as long as one particular month. Crimean officials also stated they had enough fuel stocks on hand to hold the backup power plants and generators operating for a month.

Russia is constructing an “energy bridge” from its mainland territory to Crimea that officials hope will provide most of the peninsula’s demands. Its 1st phase will begin operating by the end of this year, Mr. Aksyonov mentioned.

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