Armed security guards believed to be working for a local Crimean telecom have seized the Simferopol branch of the Ukrainian telecom Ukrtelecom. Earlier today, Natalya Yemchenko, the communications director for System Capital Management, Ukrtelecom's parent company, reported the incident on her Facebook page.
According to Yemchenko, unknown men forced their way into the Simferopol office during the early morning hours of February 10. Once inside the building, they disconnected the two long-distance cables that link Crimea to the Ukrainian mainland. Ukrtelecom says it currently has no control over its Simferopol office.
Earlier reports claimed Ukrtelecom itself disconnected the long-distance cables leading to Crimea, though a partial restoration of communications was announced soon thereafter.
Ukrtelecom is the largest fixed-line telephone operator in Ukraine. In December 2014, Crimean authorities warned that the company had made no effort to legalize its activities under the peninsula's new Russian government. At the same time, Crimean Prime Minister Sergey Aksyonov threatened to ban Ukrtelecom from operating in Crimea.
Several companies active in Crimea before it reunited with Russia have been forced to suspend operations in the area, to avoid violating foreign sanctions.
In late September 2014, unknown men seized another of Ukrtelecom’s offices, in Sevastopol, forcing the telecom to cease its operations in that city.