Crimea declares state of emergency over blackout as power lines from Ukraine are 'blown up'

MOSCOW (AFP/REUTERS) - Crimea declared a state of emergency on Sunday (Nov 22) 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.

The authorities in Crimea, which is dependent on Ukraine for electricity, said they had managed to partially reconnect the cities of Simferopol, Yalta and Saki using generators after two pylons were brought down.

The Russian Energy Ministry did not say what had caused the outages, but Russian media reported that two pylons in the Kherson region of Ukraine north of Crimea had been blown up by Ukrainian nationalists.

The ministry said in a statement that two power lines bringing power from Ukraine to Crimea had been affected, as a result of which 1,896,000 people had been left without power.

The ministry said that a state of emergency had been declared in Crimea. It also said that emergency supplies had been turned on for critical needs and 13 mobile gas turbine generators were being prepared.

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 Nov 22, at 12.25am 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, adding that hospitals and other important buildings were being supplied by generators.

The Crimea's First Deputy Premier Mikhail Sheremet 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 head of the anti-narcotics department of Ukraine's interior ministry, Ilya Kiva, wrote on Facebook in the early hours of Sunday: "The pylons have just been blown up!!!"

The incident came after Ukraine's UNIAN agency reported that two of the main power lines into Crimea had been attacked overnight Thursday to Friday.

Ukraine's state energy company Ukrenergo posted pictures of a downed pylon and one with a hole blown through it taken on Friday morning, saying the power lines were brought down at around 4am.

"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.

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 Kherson region on Saturday, RIA Novosti news agency reported.

On Saturday, the pylons were the scene of violent clashes between activists from the Right Sector nationalist movement and paramilitary police, Ukrainian media reported.

The pylons had already been damaged by the activists on Friday before they were blown up on Saturday night, according to these reports.