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No Curling Irons After Dark: Crimean Authorities Scramble To Tackle Latest Blackout

  • Claire Bigg

Men play chess during a power cut in Yalta, Crimea, in November.

Men play chess during a power cut in Yalta, Crimea, in November.

As Crimea struggles with its second power outage in just over a month, the peninsula's Russian-backed authorities have issued power-saving recommendations to residents that include avoiding the use of curling irons after nightfall.

Authorities said Crimea had lost at least one quarter of its power because of the blackout, which appeared to have been caused by the fall of an electricity pylon in mainland Ukraine late on December 30.

Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, but the peninsula remains largely dependent on Ukraine for electricity.

Crimea's fuel and power minister, Svetlana Borodulina, urged residents to use household appliances sparingly and only during the day, when solar and wind power can help partially offset the shortages.

"Try to cook what you cook on electrical stoves during the day, curling irons that women use, charge your batteries," she advised disgruntled Crimeans, many of whom are preparing to celebrate New Year's Eve in the dark.

Borodulina suggested that, after 6 p.m., residents focus on "talking to each other."

Borodulina also had a recommendation for holiday gifts, traditionally exchanged on New Year's Eve in both Russia and Ukraine.

"A friendly attitude to electricity is probably the best mutual gift for Crimeans," she added.

Ukrainian electricity company Ukrenergo said its staff and police were investigating the circumstances behind the pylon's fall.

The blackout is nowhere as crippling as the one that hit Crimea in November after unidentified saboteurs blew up power lines, leaving almost all of the peninsula in darkness.

Rotating Power Cuts

Officials have announced rotating power cuts ahead of the Russian New Year holiday.

The cut-off, however, coincides with the expiration of a power-supply contract between Ukrenergo and Crimea, and it is still unclear when and if a new contract will be signed.

Crimean leader Sergei Aksyonov has called on Crimeans not to worry, assuring them that the authorities have the situation "completely under control."

In a message posted on Facebook on December 31, he pledged that his government was taking all necessary measures, including equipping public venues with diesel generators, to ensure that people are comfortable through New Year's Eve.

"Crimeans must celebrate this holiday in a good mood, with heating and light," he wrote.

Aksyonov nonetheless noted that "no one has cancelled the power-saving regimen," and urged residents to avoid using household appliances as much as possible.

"By switching on powerful appliances, you are dealing a blow to your neighbors and to all those living close to you," he warned.

But many Crimeans say their patience is wearing thin.

"Tell the truth instead of saying that you are all prepared," an angry Simferopol resident wrote in reply to Aksyonov's Facebook post. "In fact you're not controlling anything."

"There was no power from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and they're promising a three-hours on, three-hours off schedule throughout the New Year," wrote another commentator from the town of Bilohirsk, in southern Crimea. "Thanks for the festive mood!!!!!!"

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    Claire Bigg

    Claire Bigg covers Russia, Ukraine, and the post-Soviet world, with a focus on human rights, civil society, and social issues. Send story tips to​