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Crimeans describe life during blackout after attacks from Ukraine

Crimean residents are learning to live with thawing fridges, pitch-dark highways and shuttered schools a week after Ukrainian miliants began attacking the power lines feeding the region.

As Russian authorities scramble to restore power, almost 2 million people have been left without electricity. Despite the hum of generators filling the streets, most businesses have been forced to shut down or dramatically scale back their operations.

Major towns are receiving electricity for a few hours a day while some villages have no power at all.

Vladimir Putin has hit out at the Ukrainian government, saying without their tacit backing the cut-off would not have been possible.

Russia is working to finish a cable across the Kerch strait to link Crimea to the Russian mainland, but it will not be finished until the second half of December, and even then will only provide half of Crimea’s energy needs. For now, hundreds of generators have been shipped to the region.

Some 150 schools and nurseries have been closed until further notice as part of emergency measures imposed by the de facto authorities that came to power when Russia annexed the peninsula from Ukraine in March 2014. The annexation has been condemned around the world, with most governments refusing to recognise the territory as part of Russia.

The Crimean prime minister, Sergei Aksyonov, called the destruction of the electricity supply a “terrorist act”. “No one will bring Crimeans to their knees, we won’t allow for negotiations,” he said. “We won’t let anyone speak to us in the language of blackmail.”

Presently, back-up power reserves are proving unable to adequately supply Crimea’s hospitals.

“The situation could pose serious risks to people’s lives,” says Olga Skripnik, a Crimean human rights campaigner. “Many people also complain that due to the lack of mobile networks they are unable to call ambulances and fire departments.”

Residents play cards in Simferopol. Locals say supplies of candles and batteries have been exhausted.
Residents play cards in Simferopol. Locals say supplies of candles and batteries have been exhausted. Photograph: Max Vetrov/AFP/Getty Images

‘We’re used to it’

It’s been a turbulent few months for the region’s residents, who have found themselves at the centre of a geopolitical storm, but many are putting on a brave face.

“I think the problems will be resolved, everything will be alright,” says a newspaper vendor in Simferopol, the regional capital.

“We are not worried about anything, not even the refrigerators,” one woman in Simferopol said. “It’s OK. We’ll get through it. We’re used to it.”

Elderly residents, recalling the second world war and the shortages experienced before and after the Soviet breakup of 1991, appear to be taking the blackout in stride.

“What is there to say when there is no electricity?” says Valentina, an elderly woman sitting on a bench in Simferopol. “No, wait, we have electricity today,” she suddenly remembers.

“That was yesterday,” one of her friends corrects from the next bench.

“Today we have no water,” Valentina explains.

However frustration is mounting over the transportation problems brought on by the blackout – trams no longer run, traffic lights are switched off and the streets and highways are eerily dark.

Gas stations have been shutting down one after the other, creating long lines outside those still open for service.

“I don’t understand, why isn’t there any electricity?” asks a driver, queuing up to refuel at a petrol station in Simferopol. “We were told that Crimea is ready, that it has stations which can provide electricity to the whole of Crimea. Why aren’t they doing it then. Have they vanished?”

Locals have turned to battery-powered lamps to use indoors.
Locals have turned to battery-powered lamps to use indoors. Photograph: TASS / Barcroft Media

So far, the majority of Crimeans appear to blame their woes on Ukrainian nationalists and Crimean Tatars, who have been preventing engineers from repairing the damaged electricity pylons.

The nationalists in mainland Ukraine, which supplies approximately 70% of Crimea’s energy needs, said they would allow the repair work only if Russia released “political prisoners” – a reference to a number of people who have been jailed on charges supporters say are trumped-up – and let Crimean Tatar leaders return to their homes.

In the meantime, Crimeans are bracing for weeks of disruptions and shortages.

The senior official among the Russian authorities who control Crimea, Sergei Aksyonov, said it might take his government an entire month to restore electricity to the peninsula.

“If you seize a territory,” said Dmitry, a resident of the southern port city of Feodosia, “then please be kind enough to supply electricity.”

A version of this article appeared on RFE/RL



Crimean citizens are recruited into the Russian army in violation of the Geneva Convention on the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of WarOn 30 July, 2017 another action was held in Sevastopol calling to serve under the contract in the Russian army. The citizens of Sevastopol again were recruited for military service. At the so-called “point of selection for military service on a contract basis” they distributed booklets with agitation to serve in separate coastal defence brigade 126 and in landing ships brigade 197 of the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation. Agitation was held in Sevastopol during the celebration of the day of the Navy on Nakhimov Square. According to the Crimea.Realii website, an exhibition of land military equipment was held on the same square; The exhibition included: a mobile coastal anti-ship missile system “Bastion” with a unified homing missile “Yakhont”, a mobile command and staff radio station, a floating wheeled armoured personnel carrier, an anti-aircraft missile system S-300 “Favorit” for the destruction of modern and prospective aircraft, a 122 mm missile-antiaircraft complex Grad, a multiple launch rocket system “Uragan”, an anti-aircraft missile system “Pantsir”, an air defence missile system “Osa”, a charging car, a self-propelled artillery “Gvozdika”. According to Russian media, the occupation authorities held a naval parade in the city, where military a demonstration fire was organized. The event began with the entrance of the three-masted sailing frigate “Khersones” to the Sevastopol Bay, at which students of the Ukrainian University (Kerch State Maritime Technological University) earlier had a maritime practice. According to local and Russian media, the training ship “Perekop”, missile cruiser “Moscow” and the diesel-electric submarine “Stary Oskol”, as well as the naval aviation Ka-27 helicopters and Su-30SM fighters, also took part in the military parade. Such actions of the Russian Federation in the territory of Ukraine, which was occupied by it, grossly violate international humanitarian law and are prohibited by international conventions. The Crimean Human Rights Group (CHRG) earlier recorded the holding of similar agitation events for military service in the Russian army in the occupied peninsula. We remind you that Article 51 of the Geneva Convention on the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War explicitly prohibits the invocation of an occupying power in the occupied territory. The head of the CHRG, Olga Skrypnik, noted that among other things the Convention prohibits propaganda of the military conscription in the occupied territories, including all the advertising posters, various “patriotic” events in schools and universities where people are called to go to the Russian army. Both contractual and regular service are under the ban. Photos of the mobile point of military drafting and promotional booklets were made on 30 July in Sevastopol.

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