Crimea Loses Ukrainian Electricity Supplies to Sabotage and Contract Conflict

On December 30, a pylon of the Kakhovska-Titan power transmission line, the last remaining between Ukraine and Crimea after Ukrainian Tartars cut the other three in November, fell to what is believed to be a deliberate act of sabotage by far right Ukrainian nationalists.  The Ukrainian government is claiming that a technical failure near the town of Bohdanivka resulted in the halt in electrical supplies through the line.  The line was repaired on January 2, but electrical supplies have yet to resume due to the expiration of the pertinent power supply contract and a dispute over the replacement agreement proposed by the Ukrainian government.   With this loss, Crimea now has a 400 MW power deficit that cannot be filled until Russia completes its planned energy bridge to the peninsula in the Spring of 2016.

The Ukrainians are trying to force the Crimean government to accept a new electricity supply contract; as the former contract expired on December 31.  Wording in the new contract that names Crimea as part of Ukraine has drawn rebuke from Moscow.  Russian authorities are adamant that the Crimean populace wants no part of this agreement, ostensibly due to this wording issue.  A poll by the All-Russian Public Opinion Research Center (owned by the Russian government) found that 93% of Crimeans are opposed to signing the new Ukrainian agreement and are willing to continue to suffer from electrical shortages until new transmission lines are completed. 

Kiev may have hoped that the power shortage in Crimea would pressure the Crimean and Russian governments into acquiescing on this wording disagreement, or perhaps Kiev relished the idea of forcing Russia into facing a real cost (in this case in their reputation before the Crimean people) associated with their annexation.  There is a risk, however, that this objective could backfire, with the Crimean population blaming their plight on the Ukrainian government.

As stated above, blackouts and electrical shortages can be expected to continue until the Russian transmission lines to Crimea are completed in the Spring of 2016.  This period is also likely to include heavy propaganda efforts by Moscow to persuade the Crimean people that their sacrifice is on account of Kiev, rather than the result of Russian mismanagement.