'Sabotage' leaves two million with no power
Nearly two million people on the Crimean Peninsula have been left without electricity after two transmission towers in Ukraine were blown up in what appears to be sabotage.
The two transmission towers in Kherson, Ukraine, were first damaged on Friday. Ukrainian activists, including Crimean Tatars, tried to block repair works on Saturday, but retreated after clashes with police.
Police said later on Saturday that the repairs had been completed but the towers were hit by explosions in the early hours of yesterday. It was not immediately clear who was responsible.
One Russian senator described the move as an "act of terrorism" and implied that Ukrainian nationalists were to blame.
Crimea receives the bulk of its electricity from the Ukrainian mainland and its seizure by Russia last year prompted fury in Kiev and the West, which then imposed economic sanctions on Russian companies and individuals.
Russia's Energy Ministry said emergency electricity supplies had been turned on for critical needs in Crimea and that mobile gas turbine generators were being used, adding that around 1.6 million people out of a population of roughly two million remained without power yesterday.
Ukraine's Energy Minister Volodymyr Demchyshyn said four power lines had been damaged and that two districts of Ukraine's Kherson region were also left without power.
The head of Crimea, Sergei Aksyonov, declared today a non-working day because of the emergency situation in the republic.
The attack, if by Ukrainian nationalists opposed to Russia's annexation of Crimea, is likely to further increase tensions between Russia and Ukraine.
The Civil Blockade of Crimea group, in which Crimean Tatar activists play a prominent role, denied it was responsible for either the attacks on Friday or Saturday night.
In September, Tatar activists opposed to Russia's annexation of their indigenous homeland set up road blocks on roads leading from Ukraine to Crimea as part of an economic blockade aimed at dramatising the plight of Tatars in Crimea.
A Ukrainian police representative from Kherson region said police had blocked off the area surrounding the damaged pylons yesterday to allow repairs.
State-run energy firm Ukrenergo said it hoped to restore all the damaged lines within four days.