SIMFEROPOL, November 28. /TASS/. The six days of massive power blackout that followed when high voltage power lines bringing electricity to Crimea went dead after two pylons were blown up in an act of sabotage in neighboring Ukraine on November 22 have put to test both the Crimeans’ patience and the authorities’ readiness to cope with the emergency effectively and quickly enough. Russia has promised to promptly lay a power supply cable from the mainland under the sea. The work is well in progress. In the meantime, while local people buy up candles by the dozen, the authorities do their utmost to build up local generating capacities, which are still way below the local demand.
"In a nutshell: we are now trying to walk a tight rope and stay in balance. Nobody has had to address a task like this ever before. Either in Russia or elsewhere," the head of the Crimean Republic, Sergey Aksyonov, told the media on Friday. Crimea’s power grid currently operates entirely on its own. Rolling blackouts have to be used to reduce consumption. Crucial social facilities have been connected to autonomous power sources.
Crimea’s electric power providers now revise and adjust the timetables of rolling blackouts every single day. Earlier, Crimea’s Fuel and Energy Minister Sergey Yegorov was dismissed for failing to provide an effective response to the emergency. In Crimea’s capital Simferopol three-hour-long power outages follow every nine hours. Some local residents have told TASS the schedule of blackouts sometimes disagrees with the reality.
"Electricity is provided according to special schedules. Inside each district the local administration chief is free to distribute it. Some use it for socially important facilities, others bring it to households or boiler rooms. The local authorities have a free hand within the established power rations," Aksyonov told TASS.
According to the Russian Energy Ministry overall electric power generation capacity in the peninsula has reached 400 megawatts by now. It is still way below the 1,000-1,200 megawatt demand).
"Crimea has three main thermoelectric power plants, which are capable of providing a total of 60 megawatts to 90 megawatts a day. Also, there are mobile gas turbine power plants. They were used during the Sochi Olympics as standby ones. Now they provide the bulk amount of electricity that is now available to us," Aksyonov said.
Diesel generators are being used as auxiliary power sources to keep vital social facilities going.
Street lights in Crimea are out in the evenings and throughout the night. Restaurants and shops close early. Shoppers hurry to buy essentials before the dusk sets in. Candles are in the greatest demand. Improvised kiosks selling them have mushroomed literally at every street corner in the city centre. One candle may cost 100 roubles (roughly $1.5).
"Demand breeds supply," says a street vendor.
Aksyonov appreciates the Crimean people’s sell-control, patience and ability to cope with the inconveniences the disruption of power supply from Ukraine has entailed. "Not a single sign of alarm. Not a hint at protest sentiment," he told the media. "The people are aware what is happening and who is to blame. They are prepared to hold on and wait."
"We will manage. Motherland is not an item for sale. Still it’s far better in Russia without evening lights for a while than in Ukraine with all lights on," retiree Aleksandr told TASS while buying a dozen candles.
The local police have doubled the strength of patrols on the streets of Crimean cities. Just in case. Security has been tightened at 163 crucial sites and facilities. Berkut and SOBR crack police units and also military and police support squads maintain public order.
Crimea’s schools and childcare centres have been suspended for a week now. Municipal authorities in some districts may extend the unscheduled holidays further, if need be. Aksyonov has promised extra paid leaves to women with children under ten years of age. He addressed all local businesses and managers with a special request to this effect.
In the meantime, most women with children in Crimea do not know yet they are entitled to paid leaves. Many, for instance, shop assistants, have to bring their kids to their work places, while others leave minors in grannies’ care.
"I’ve seen many women bring kids to work. To shopping centres, for instance," Denis, a father of two primary school students, has told TASS. "I’d been scheduled to take a vacation anyway. Now I have to stay with children. If the blackouts last for another week, then it will be the granny’s headache."
Denis’s wife, Irina, says that although she was notified of her right to take an extra vacation now, the employer warned her that "nobody will be doing my job for me."
Other parents TASS correspondents have polled said they had heard nothing about the instruction regarding longer vacations the head of Crimea issued.
"My wife keeps going to work. I’m on holiday now myself. Nobody told her she was free to take a vacation, too," says Sergey. "I’m not complaining, though. I like to spend my spare time with kids. The country is in a no easy situation. When it rains, it pours. We do understand. Sometimes we get into the car to stay warm and charge mobile phones."
Grandpas and grandmas are eager to help many working couples.
"The parents surely help. No chance of doing without them," says young mother Olga.
Crimea’s power grid will go entirely independent as soon as a high voltage electric power cable is laid under the Kerch Strait from mainland Russia’s Krasnodar Territory. Russian Energy Minister Aleksandr Novak told the media earlier the first stage of the supply link would be commissioned by December 20. Every conceivable measure is being taken to fast-track the solution.
Crimea hopes the first megawatts from mainland Russia will start pouring into the peninsula’s energy system as early as next month. Aksyonov expects this will happen on December 5 or 6.
"The situation will change after December 5-6. As soon as the cable is in place. I’m not very sure about the date, though, because their deadline is December 22. But I do hope they will be through with the work earlier than that," he said after a meeting of the joint crisis and emergency management centre on Friday, adding added that Crimea’s power grid was prepared to take the much-needed energy Russia’s Krasnodar Territory was about to deliver.