Some 2 million people in Russian-annexed Crimea have little or no power for a fifth straight day, and Russia restricts its coal supplies to Ukraine as 'punishment' for the political stalemate. Mana Rabiee reports.
Crimeans feel like they've been plunged into darkness. Some 2 million people in Russian-annexed Crimea struggle under severe power shortages for a fifth straight day -- after saboteurs blew up the main power lines in southern Ukraine that lead into Crimea. The power blackout reveals how reliant Crimea still is on the Ukrainian government, a year and a half after it voted to break away to join neighboring Russia. (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) SEVASTOPOL RESIDENT, VLADISLAV SOTNIK, SAYING: "Of course this is very difficult. But nevertheless, we stand firm, we have no other way out." A political stalemate has left the damaged power pylons lying in these muddy fields in southern Ukraine. That's because a small number of mostly unarmed ethnic Tatar activists -- who feel Crimea's Kremlin-backed government is oppressing them -- along with pro-Ukrainian nationalists -- have blocked workers here from making repairs. The protesters say Ukraine's government is quietly on their side and they vow not to budge -- not until Russia agrees to a series of their political demands, including freeing what they say are political prisoners. (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) UNIDENTIFIED ACTIVIST, SAYING: "As soon as at least one political prisoner is released then we will give permission to repair one pylon and to run electricity as well." Russia accuses Ukraine of deliberately slowing repairs, allegations Ukraine calls baseless. The Kremlin's been threatening to 'punish' Ukraine for Crimea's energy crisis by restricting its own coal supplies to Ukraine, and on Friday Moscow made good on its word by doing just that. The stalemate, it seems, continues.