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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- Russian Minister of Energy Aleksander Novak met with his counterparts from Iran, Iraq, Qatar and Venezuela to discuss cooperation in the energy sector. His meetings took place on the sidelines of the 17th Ministerial Meeting of the Gas-Exporting Countries Forum (GECF) in Tehran, Iran, where Novak is set to meet with the Iranian Minister of Oil to discuss cooperation in more detail. RIA Novosti reported that Novak commented on the glut in the global oil market, lending support to regulation to balance the market. Energy ministers from 18 countries, including Russia and Kazakhstan, attended the Ministerial Meeting, where the GECF’s role in global gas supply and its position on liquefied natural gas (LNG) and pipeline transmission. The GECF’s main summit is set to take place on November 23 in Tehran, when Putin is slated to meet with Iranian President Rouhani and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. GECF member states control 85 percent of LNG production and 38 percent of pipeline trade. In addition, they control 70 percent of global gas reserves, with 57 percent located in Russia, Iran and Qatar.
- Western leaders agreed to extend sanctions on Russia over its role in the conflict in eastern Ukraine by six months after their deadline in January 2016, Reuters reported. A senior European diplomat allegedly claimed that the decision was taken at a meeting on the sidelines of the G-20 summit between US, German, Italian and British heads of state and France’s foreign minister, who decided that pressure should remain on Russia despite calls for cooperation over the conflict in Syria in the wake of the Paris attacks. The sanctions were slated to expire in January before full implementation of the February 2015 “Minsk II” peace accords. For its part, the Russian government has cited Ukraine’s unwillingness to completely abandon violent tactics in eastern Ukraine, while Kiev alleges the same for Russian-backed separatist groups. The EU extended sanctions in July until the end of January 2016, and in September a set of asset freezes and travel bans due to expire that month to the end of March 2016.
- Russia’s National Counterterrorism Committee released a statement claiming that eleven Islamic State (IS)-linked fighters were killed in a special operation in the North Caucasus. The report stated that a workshop producing improvised explosive devices (IEDs) was also destroyed where the fighters were found, and that two IEDs and a stash of firearms and ammunition was also discovered during the operation. The mission took place in a wooded area near the Nalchik, the capital city of the Kabardino-Balkar Republic to the west of Chechnya and Dagestan, where most of the conflict seen in the Caucasus in the past few years has taken place. Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov stated that 50 fighters from IS had returned and were cooperating with special forces, including that of the near 500 Chechens fighting alongside IS, 200 have been killed. His statement parallels that of Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Oleg Syromolotov, who asserted last week that 73 IS-affiliated fighters had been returned to the North Caucasus, and that 160 of the estimated 2,700 Russian citizens alleged to join IS have been eliminated. Kadyrov claimed that the 50 returned fighters had experienced a change of heart that caused them to leave Syria for home.
- Korean Kookmin Bank extended a 100-million-dollar revolving credit line to Kazakhstan’s CenterCredit Bank (CCB), in which Kookmin Bank has a 41.93 percent stake as its largest shareholder. CCB’s press service stated that the loan was issued at a floating rate tied to the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR), and that it illustrates Kookmin Bank’s support for its strategic partnership with and confidence in the leadership of CCB. Kookmin Bank, one of the largest in South Korea in terms of asset holdings and market capitalization, was fined by the nation’s Financial Security Services (FSS) in 2010 after losses incurred for mismanagement, and in 2013 underwent an FSS investigation over allegations of mismanagement of CCB after its Tokyo branch was accused of trying to create a slush fund with illegal loans. Kookmin bought shares of CCB in 2008 during the global financial crisis, and cinched its stake up to 41.93 percent before incurring losses of nearly $260 million. As of November 1, CCB ranked fifth among Kazakhstan’s second-tier banks with assets of approximately 1.31 trillion tenge (USD 4.24 billion).
- 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.