Saturday, March 15, 2014

Running out of gas

On 15 March Russian forces seized a key gas distribution center at Strilkove. Two mi-24 and two mi-8 helicopters and three APCs dropped 80+ troops. This seizure is a devastating loss for Ukraine, as the facility is a pump on the gas pipeline to Crimea, but critically, also the distribution point for off-shore gas platforms. This event strikes a major blow to Ukraine's energy independence from Russia, and possibly also the willingness and ability of the west to help, as this point distributed gas not just to Crimea but up to southern Ukraine. Russia already controls areas where gas pipelines from offshore platforms are distributed, near Chernomorskye and Shcholkine. That Ukraine had left this facility undefended raises difficult questions. Moreover, the state company that runs the gas production facilities had been slated for increases in output and upcoming privatization. Further difficult questions about that will be raised when this is all over.
Update 16 March. The Ukraine Ministry of Defense has made statements claiming that Russian forces were repelled from Strilkove, but this is not true. At last report, Russian forces continue to hold the gas facility. Ukraine military has set up a checkpoint 150 meters north of that position, and looks on helplessly. I am very disturbed by the conduct of this entire incident, and considering the multi-billion dollar value of this small set of gas pipes, I suspect that someone has been bribed within the Ukraine military.

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