Rebels Bomb ‘‘‘ and Take Offline ‘‘‘ Ukrainian Power Generating Plant; Coerce Kiev into Purchasing Emergency Energy Supplies from Russia

Early on July 27, 2015, Russian-backed rebels in Eastern Ukraine reportedly shelled the Vuhlehirsk power plant in Donetsk.  Ukrainian officials report that the power generating units themselves were not damaged, but a substation was destroyed, forcing the plant to halt power-generating operations.  The loss of this power station has removed 2.5 GW of capacity from the Ukrainian electrical grid.  Rebels have reportedly been targeting this power station in recent months and have shelled it multiple times with heavy artillery.

Ukraine is now forced to import electricity from Russia to make up for the loss in electrical capacity.  The Ukrainian government, however, has decided to purchase the electricity under more expensive daily emergency orders, instead of buying power under a contract with Russia‘s state-owned energy enterprise Inter RAO (which has an extensive presence in the power generating industries of a number of Russia‘s neighboring states, including in the Baltic states and in Central and Eastern Europe).  Ukraine is currently receiving 800 MW under these emergency supplies. Avoiding contract negotiations with Inter RAO is important to Ukraine, as such negotiations would be likely to re-open an argument with that company (and, thus, Moscow) over whether Kiev should be paying for Inter RAO‘s power supplies to the Donetsk and Luhansk republics.

The attack on the Vuhlehirsk power plant is only the latest example of the targeting of civilian economic infrastructure by the Russian-backed rebels in an attempt to weaken the Ukrainian economy and strenghten its dependence on Russia for energy supplies.  The Vuhlehirsk power plant is the largest thermal power plant in Ukraine and an integral piece of infrastructure for Eastern Ukraine.