Audio content: Residents of Crimea commenting on the energy dispute with Ukraine, plus a particularly defiant statement from the leader of Crimea.
Visual content: Images from the streets of Crimea including New Year’s decorations, images of fallen electrical towers, maps of the current power supply routes.
Video from Первый канал
1 January 2016
Residents of Crimea and Sevastopol have been struggling with an uneven power supply since late November. The troubles started when activists opposed to Russia’s annexation of Crimea blew up one of the main transmission towers that carried the power cables from Ukraine south into Crimea. The connection was partially restored in early December, then once again disrupted later that month when the electrical poles were vandalized. Russia did what it could to support the newly annexed territory, sending generators and bringing in a power line from the east, across the narrow Kerch Strait (Керченский пролив) that separates southern Russia from Crimea. The news segment claims that these measures have reduced power outages to a few hours a day at the most.
The latest twist in this saga arises from the fact that the power contract between Ukraine and Crimea ran out at the end of 2015. Ukraine offered to sign a new contract (and presumably restore the downed transmission towers), but only on one condition, one that it must have assumed Russia would reject: the contract was to include a statement that power was being supplied to Crimea as a Ukrainian territory. The Russian government then asked the main Russian polling agency, ВЦИОМ, to survey Crimean residents on this topic. Poll results indicated that 93.12% of respondents preferred to reject any contract that contained the controversial provision, and 94% were ready to tolerate occasional disruptions in the power supply in the event that no contract could be concluded with Ukraine. (Some independent news agencies questioned the specific methods of this poll, but pro-Russian sentiment is strong in Crimea.)
Reports from Первый канал / Channel One generally present the Russian government’s preferred interpretation of and attitude toward current events. Thus in this clip we see citizens of Crimea reacting to the situation with equanimity and expressing confidence that they’ll be able to get by without Ukrainian power. A bit later the post-annexation leader of Crimea, Сергей Аксёнов, responds to the situation with much sharper, inflammatory language. Here the full (and tragic) degree of hostility between Russian and Ukrainian factions, particularly at the level of official discourse, is apparent. Other sections of the news report reassure listeners that the power problems have mostly been resolved without Ukraine’s help and defiantly note that Crimeans celebrated the New Year joyously in spite of the disruptions.
Заметки о языке: The technical term for electricity is “электричество” or “электроэнергия,” but in casual conversation it’s often referred to simply as “свет,” i.e. “light.” A great Russian verb for “to get by, deal with things” is “справиться,” and “обойтись” (which carries the sense of walking around an obstacle) has a similar meaning. Aksyonov uses the inflammatory words “шантажист” / “blackmailer,” “террорист” / “terrorist” and “лгать” / “to lie.” The first woman speaks in the elliptical style common in casual Russian–lots of words have to be assumed from the context.
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4:00-4:40: Citizen comments
Женщина: Даже врагу бы не отключила. Самому-самому-самому злому. Тем более, праздник, новый год. Дети радуется, ну, чтобы ёлка горела, правильно?
Вторая женщина: Мы справимся без их света, я так думаю. Так что смысл подписывать что-то там с ними… это просто смешно. Я не знаю. Россия нас не бросит. Мы без их света обойдёмся.
Мужчина с ребёнком: Я думаю, без электричества проживём. Без Украинского, в таком случае. Это глупый шаг, который не просчитывают как шахматисты на несколько ходов вперёд. Самим же хуже будет, но со временем.
Woman: I wouldn’t even shut off [power] to my enemy. To my most-most-most bitter [enemy]. What is more, it’s the holiday, the New Year. Children are happy, [they want] the Christmas tree to shine, right?
Second woman: We’ll manage without their electricity, that’s what I think. So the point in signing something with them… that’s simply ridiculous, I don’t know. Russia will not abandon us. We’ll get by without their electricity.
Man with child: I think that we’ll survive without electricity. Without Ukrainian [electricity], in this case. This is a stupid step, which they are not calculating out even a few moves in advances, like chess players. It’ll just be worse for them, with time.
5:10-5:35: Defiant words from the leader of Crimea
Сергей Аксёнов, глава Республики Крым: Пусть они идут всё подальше с такими предложениями. Я считаю неприемлемым висеть на крючке у шантажистов и террористов, которые лгут людям, говоря, что Крым вернётся в состав Украины. Никогда этого не будет. Нас хотят запугать, нас хотят заставить полюбить себя насильно. Ничего у них не получится. Я лично уверен, что все службы выполнят задание Президента. И к первому мая Крым будет полностью обеспечен электроэнергией. В полном объёме.
Sergei Aksyonov, head of the Republic of Crimea: Go ahead, let them advance farther and farther with such proposals. I find it unacceptable to “hang on a hook” [at the whim of] blackmailers and terrorists, who are lying to people when they say that Crimea will return to Ukraine. That will never be. They want to intimidate [frighten] us, they want to compel us to like them via force. Nothing will succeed for them. I, personally, am sure that all the agencies will fulfill the President’s tasks [i.e. carry out Putin’s instructions regarding this situation]. And by May 1st Crimea will be fully provided with electrical power. To the full extent.