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State of emergency in Crimea after power lines 'blown up'

Russian authorities say pylons carrying electricity from the Ukrainian mainland to the Crimean Peninsula have been blown up. The destruction has left almost 2 million people without power.

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Without electricity after explosions

Electricity coming to Crimea from central Ukraine was cut shortly after midnight local time, the Crimean branch of Russia's Emergency Situations Ministry said in a statement on Sunday.

"On November 22, at 00:25 a.m. (2225 UTC), there was a switch-off of electricity coming into Crimea from Ukraine," the statement said, adding that "a state of emergency has been introduced on the peninsula."

The Russian Energy Ministry reported that some 1,896,000 people on the annexed peninsula had been left without power and that emergency supplies had been turned on for hospitals and other important facilities.

Russian media reported that the power cut came after two pylons in the Kherson region of Ukraine were blown up by nationalists, though this was not confirmed by the Energy Ministry.

Russia annexed Crimea last year in a move that seriously damaged relations between Moscow and Kyiv, as well as many Western countries, and was followed by a military conflict in eastern Ukraine between pro-Russian separatists and government forces.

Suspected attack

Violent clashes between activists from a Ukrainian nationalist movement and paramilitary police on Saturday took place near the pylons, media reported, saying that the pylons had already been damaged by the activists on Friday.

If the attack is confirmed to be by Ukrainian nationalists opposed to Russia's annexation of Crimea last year, the incident could further fuel tensions between Moscow and Kyiv.

Crimea is dependent on electricity from central Ukraine. The first deputy of Crimea, Mikhail Sheremet, was quoted by TASS state news agency as saying the peninsula could at most supply half of its power needs using diesel generators and renewable energy sources.

tj/sms (Reuters, AFP)

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