Crimea without power after cut off from Ukrainian flow

The Crimean Peninsula was left without power after two pylons transmitting electricity from southern Ukraine were knocked over. RIA Novosti and RFERL reported that a group of activists from the Ukrainian Right Sector nationalist group and Crimean Tatars encircled the area, preventing the Ukrainian national guard, local authorities and electricians from assessing the situation. Crimea is currently operating under a blackout and local leaders have declared a state of emergency in the peninsula, although they have reassured the public that key locations including hospitals are operating with power. Ukrainian authorities concluded that the pylons were felled with the help of ammunition of some type.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk has charged national and local authorities with fixing the pylons as soon as possible. Aleksey Pushkov, chairman of the Russian Duma Committee on International Affairs, was quoted saying that Kiev’s actions against Crimea are an attempt to draw Western attention back to Ukraine. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitriy Kozak claimed that the government planned to speed up the construction of an energy bridge linking Crimea with mainland Russia over the Kerch Strait. Ukrainian Minister of Energy and Coal Vladimir Demchishin expressed doubt about the plan’s feasibility. Demchishin noted that while providing Crimea with electricity has brought in $12.5 million in revenue for Ukraine in the past ten months, the Ukrainian Council on National Security and Defense was still debating about whether to renew the same contract for 2016.

Russian social media users and mass media began calling the blackout Ukraine’s energy blockade of Crimea. The Ukrainian Cabinet of Ministers also temporarily stopped the flow of goods into Crimea from Ukraine, citing concerns regarding the blackout. Ukrainian Minister of Economic Development Aivaras Abromavichus noted that the flow had brought $765 million in trade for Ukraine this year. The blackout comes as activists from the exiled Crimean Tatar community in Ukraine have been blocking the flow of goods as retaliation to alleged crimes committed against the Crimean Tatar community by the peninsula’s current government. Observers note that Ukraine-Russia relations are at a low since former Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich fled to Russia in 2014.

Media reports cite the upcoming implementation of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area agreed to between Ukraine and the EU as a factor with the potential to agitate relations further. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko claimed that all members of the EU have now ratified the agreement, with every party on board to implement it in January 2016. The agreement was reached in 2013, but delayed until 2016 over Russian concerns.

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News Briefs:

  • Belarus’ state-owned news agency BelTA reported that a unified procurement system between the the member states of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) would be implemented in 2016. Russian Federal Antimonopoly Service Director Igor Artemev stated that the system would operate in a limited manner, and that for now, officials are attempting to remove remaining barriers such as electronic signature compatibility for entrepreneurs who intend to do business across the EAEU. According to Artemev, the issue has been completely resolved between Belarus and Russia, and will soon be decided for Kazakhstan and Russia as well. The next step will be the creation of unified portals for entrepreneurs. EAEU members have allegedly pointed out the benefits to a unified procurement system via electronic trading, citing less opportunity for personal contact and corruption between buyers and sellers.

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