Coal crunch forces Ukraine to seek Russian power supplies
Ukraine said on Friday it was trying to secure electricity supplies from Russia because it was running out of coal that is usually produced in the war-scarred separatist east.
But Energy Minister Volodymyr Demchyshyn said Moscow wanted a prior assurance from Kiev that it would divert some of the power supplies to Crimea -- the strategic Black Sea peninsula annexed by Russia in March.
"That is their condition," Demchyshyn told reporters. "We are not importing any electricity from Russia right now."
The former Soviet nation gets about 40 percent of its power from coal-fired plants and has traditionally had a surplus of the relatively inexpensive fossil fuel.
But the eight-month pro-Russian rebellion in the coal producing provinces of Donetsk and Lugansk have shuttered many of the mines.
The insurgents have also resisted delivering the coal that is being produced to the rest of Ukraine in the hope of forcing Kiev's pro-Western leaders to recognise their independence claim.
Demchyshyn said Lugansk and Donetsk produced about 40 percent of Ukraine's electricity prior to the war.
The coal shortage has compounded energy problems that began with Russia's June decision to halt Ukraine natural gas supplies.
Ukraine says it may by this weekend make a down payment for the purchase of one billion cubic metres of Russian gas under a compromise agreement struck with the help of the European Union in late October.
Crimea had been dependent on mainland Ukraine's power and water supplies prior to its seizure by Moscow.
Russia has promised to invest vast sums into Crimea's crumbling infrastructure in order to cut of its dependence on Ukraine and foster people's trust in the Kremlin.
But the peninsula remains cut off from Russia by the Sea of Azov and cannot currently receive any energy from its new master.
© 2014 AFP