Crimea declared a state of emergency on Sunday after its main electricity power lines from Ukraine were blown up, leaving the Russian-annexed peninsula in darkness after the second such attack in a matter of days.
Crimea depends on Ukraine for its electricity supplies, providing only 30 percent of its own energy, according to the regional government.
Russia’s emergency situations ministry said Sunday morning they had managed to partially reconnect the cities of Simferopol, Feodosia, Yevpatoria and Yalta using generators after two pylons were brought down.
So far, Crimea — home to 1.9 million people — has enough fuel to keep the gas and diesel-powered generators running, authorities said.
In the port city of Sevastopol, electricity began shutting off around midnight and cut off completely at 2:00 am, although different districts have since had brief periods of power in what appears to be organised rolling blackouts by authorities, an AFP journalist reported.
Cable and mobile Internet stopped working, although there was still cell phone coverage, and water supplies to high-rise buildings halted.
The attack has raised concerns the Black Sea peninsula, which was annexed by Russia last year, will not have enough energy after the other two main power lines supplying the region were blown up on Friday.
“On November 22, at 00:25 am (2225 GMT) there was a switch-off of electricity coming into Crimea from Ukraine,” the Crimean branch of Russia’s emergency situations ministry said in a statement.
“By decision of the head of the Crimean republic, a state of emergency has been introduced on the peninsula,” the ministry said.
“All socially significant or potentially dangerous installations… are being fuelled with reserve sources of energy.”
It added that power to housing would be supplied “on a rolling schedule” set by the regional power company.
Mikhail Sheremet, the first deputy premier of Crimea, said the peninsula could only supply half its power needs at most using diesel generators and renewable sources such as wind and solar power, the TASS state news agency reported.
The four power lines that supply Crimea with electricity from Ukraine were first attacked in the early hours of Friday in Ukraine’s Kherson region bordering Crimea, in blasts that downed two lines and damaged the other two.
Ukraine’s state energy company Ukrenergo on Friday morning posted pictures of a downed pylon and one with a hole blown through it, saying the power lines were brought down at around 4:00 am.
“The nature of the damage shows that it took place as a result of shelling or the use of explosive devices,” Ukrenergo said in a statement.
Friday’s attack prompted Crimea’s authorities to warn residents to charge batteries and store up water in case of a total power cut.
Then early Sunday, another explosion took place, cutting all the power to Crimea.
The head of the anti-narcotics department of Ukraine’s interior ministry, Ilya Kiva, who was at the scene, wrote on Facebook in the early hours of Sunday: “The pylons have just been blown up!!!”
The identity of the attackers remained unclear.
Crimean Tatars, an ethnic group native to the peninsula who oppose Russian rule, held a protest at the site of the broken power lines in the Kherson region on Saturday evening in favour of a blockade of Crimea, RIA Novosti news agency reported.
Crimea experienced several total power cuts last winter, attributed by the authorities to repairs and technical problems, but seen by residents as deliberate pressure from Ukraine.
Russia plans to build two gas-powered power stations in Crimea, which would burn gas piped from the mainland, but these are still at the planning stage.