Ukraine cut off electricity and train services to Crimea on Friday, moves that could raise tensions with Russia, which annexed the peninsula in March and has been prodding Kiev to negotiate with Moscow-backed rebels in the country’s eastern provinces.
The power cutoff is the second this week by Ukraine, which says it has electricity shortages of its own because rebels have halted shipments of coal to its power plants. The cutoff in railway services, however, could indicate Ukraine is stepping up its pressure of the peninsula.
Ukraine’s state rail company Ukrzaliznytsia on Friday said it would stop passenger and cargo train services to Crimea “in order to insure the safety of passengers.” The move will affect both Ukrainian and foreign trains traveling to the peninsula, the company said. It didn’t indicate when services would resume.
Ukrainian pressure on Crimea comes after talks between Kiev and Russian-supported rebels to end the fighting got off to an unsteady start. Ukrainian officials and representatives of the rebels met for the first time in months for about five hours earlier this week in Minsk, Belarus. However, the two sides failed to agree on more than a tentative plan for a prisoner exchange and didn’t set a date for their next meeting, officials said.
The talks, mediated by Russia and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, aim to cement a putative cease-fire that was declared in September between Ukrainian and rebel troops. Although fighting has tailed off in recent weeks, more than 1,300 have been killed since the cease-fire was declared. Altogether, more than 4,700 have been killed since fighting broke out in eastern Ukraine in the spring.