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Leonid Bershidsky

Ukraine Bids for Attention With Crimea Blackout

Kiev is in no hurry to act against activists who have cut off power to the Russian-held peninsula.
Darkness in Simferopol.

Darkness in Simferopol.

Photographer: MAX VETROV/AFP/Getty Images

Even if Russian President Vladimir Putin wanted to end his country's conflict with Ukraine so he could build an alliance with Western powers to beat Islamic State -- and it's not clear at all that he does -- Ukrainians wouldn't let him.

In the last minutes of Nov. 21, someone (more on that later) blew up two transmission towers in Ukraine's Kherson region, cutting off Crimea's electricity. Lights went out all over the peninsula Russia annexed from Ukraine last year. Plunged into darkness, citizens heard loudspeaker announcements: The authorities are doing their best to resolve the situation, stay calm, Nov. 23 will be a day off for everyone but civil servants. On Monday morning, according to the Russian energy ministry, 1.66 million of Crimea's 2 million residents still didn't have power in their homes. Hospitals, garrisons and government offices were running on emergency backup. There wasn't much the Russian authorities in Crimea could do except wait for Ukrainians to restore supply, but that might be too much to ask of them.