Ukrainian nationwide fixed and mobile operator Ukrtelecom (including cellular subsidiary TriMob) has ceased providing all telecommunications services in the Russian-controlled Crimea peninsula, apparently due to circumstances beyond its control. Ukrtelecom and TriMob are no longer operating from their regional branch headquarters in the peninsula, in Simferopol and Sevastopol, and all the group’s services including fixed telephony, broadband internet access and mobile services are non-operational. Ukrtelecom confirms on its website that it is impossible to provide services because of ‘the physical separation of the fibre-optic trunk cable in two directions at once that connects mainland Ukraine and the Crimea’ by an unknown party, which occurred yesterday (10 February), in addition to the telco’s employees being blocked from accessing Crimean (Simferopol) offices and technical facilities by armed guards. The company states that there is ‘no technical possibility to exercise control over [its] facilities in Crimea and, accordingly, the company can [no longer] provide telecommunications services on the peninsula’. As previously reported, ‘through capture by unknown persons of premises and telecommunications equipment in September 2014 Ukrtelecom was forced to stop providing services in Sevastopol’. A Russian-backed company referred to as Krymtelekom is said to be taking over the local branches of Ukrtelecom, which for its part ‘considers the incident as deliberate sabotage by a third party for the purpose of illegal seizure of private property.’ Reportedly, around 80% of all fixed telephony customers in the Crimea region previously used Ukrtelecom’s services.
Ukrtelecom’s Crimea departure follows the exit of all other Ukrainian mobile operators and all major alternative Ukrainian fixed telecoms providers (including Ukrtelecom’s sister telco Vega – which also announced its closure in Simferopol this week), with Russian-registered telcos moving in to take over all operations.