The Threat of Telecom Sabotage


Five Years After Egypt

November 24, 2015 Comments (6) Views: 28010 Disconnection, Politics, Submarine Cables, Ukraine

Explosions Leave Crimea in the Dark

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Just after midnight local time on 22 November, saboteurs, presumably allied with Ukrainian nationalists, set off explosives knocking out power lines to the Crimean peninsula.  At 21:29 UTC on 21 November (00:29am on 22-Nov, local time) , we observed numerous Internet outages affecting providers in Crimea and causing significant degradation in Internet connectivity in the disputed region.

With Crimean Tatar activists and Ukrainian nationalists currently blocking repair crews from restoring power, Crimea may be looking at as much as a month without electricity as the Ukrainian winter sets in.  Perhaps more importantly, the incident could serve as a flash point spurring greater conflict between Ukraine and Russia.  ua_map


The impacts can be seen in the MRTG traffic volume plot from the Crimea Internet Exchange — the drop-offs are noted with red arrows and followed by intermittent periods of partial connectivity.

Dyn’s latency measurements into Miranda-Media, the Crimean local agent of Russian state operator Rostelecom, show that some parts of the network remain reachable despite the power loss.  However, while backup generators may be keeping the networking infrastructure online, it won’t be of much good for the people of Crimea if they have no power in their residences and places of work.  The following graphic on the left depicts traceroutes entering Crimea via either Rostelecom in Krasnodar, Russia or the Crimean Datagroup fiber network — a network that Rostelecom purchased last year following the annexation of Crimea.  The graphic on the right depicts traces into various Crimean Internet providers.

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The degree of service degradation varied by provider.  Crimea Minister of Internal Policy, Information and Communications, Dmitry Polonsky said that Krymtelekom was the only ISP still operational because it did not rely on power from the Ukrainian territory.  However, in following graphic on the left, we can see a significant reduction in the rate of completing traceroutes into Krymtelekom, suggesting considerable initial impact from the loss of power.  In the graphic on the right, KerchNET located on the eastern coast of Crimea, appeared severely degraded due to the power issues (right graphic).

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Dependence in Mainland Ukraine

Recall that, following Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in March, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev ordered the immediate construction of a new submarine cable across the Kerch Strait, one that would connect mainland Russia to the peninsula.  We spotted and reported on the activation of Kerch Strait cable in July of last year.

As illustrated in the maps below, the Crimean peninsula depends critically on the Ukrainian mainland for infrastructure services: power, water, gas and Internet — that was until the Kerch Strait Cable was activated, giving Crimea a new path to reach the global Internet.

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Russia has been working on an alternative route for Crimean electricity through Kerch, much as the Kerch Strait cable provides a redundant path for Internet service.  But that power cable is not planned to be operational until 22 December, almost a month away.  The image below shows a darkened Crimea as viewed from space.  This may be the picture of Crimea for days to come.


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6 Responses to Explosions Leave Crimea in the Dark

  1. Shallel says:

    Um… a senior Ukrainian energy official revealed that the attack on transmission towers that cut off the delivery of electricity from Ukraine to Crimea also created an emergency situation at nuclear power plants.
    The apparent act of sabotage in Ukraine’s Kherson region forced an emergency power unloading at several Ukrainian nuclear power plants, which can be extremely dangerous, according to the first deputy director of Ukraine’s energy company Ukrenergo, Yuriy Katich.

    Not all all good.

    Thanks for this article.

  2. […] had gone dark. This temporary outage was not the result of purely physical sabotage—like the case a month earlier where explosives had knocked out power lines to Crimea—but instead, according to Ukrainian […]

  3. […] section of Ukraine went dark on December 23 and the country’s SBU security service was quick to blame Russia for this power-failure. The […]

  4. […] Ivano-Frankivsk na Ucrânia, ficaram no escuro – literalmente. O incidente foi bem diferente da queda reportada anteriormente, causada por explosivos colocados por supostos nacionalistas ucranianos na península da Crimeia, […]

  5. […] Ivano-Frankivsk, en Ucrania, se quedaron a oscuras, literalmente. El incidente fue muy diferente al apagón que se informó anteriormente, causado por explosivos colocados por presuntos nacionalistas ucranianos en la península de […]

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