Ongoing power outages in Russia have Putin fuming

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Pastor Dale Morgan

Jan 1, 2011, 11:37:43 PM1/1/11
Perilous Times

Ongoing power outages in Russia have Putin fuming

The Associated Press
Saturday, January 1, 2011; 12:05 PM

MOSCOW -- Difficulties and delays in restoring electricity to hundreds of Russian villages after freezing rain broke power lines has caused a political scandal in Moscow.

Russia's energy minister and the Moscow region governor had to change their plans for ringing in the New Year - the most important family holiday of the year in Russia - after being publicly chastised by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Putin scolded them for failing to fulfill promises to restore electricity to 35 villages that had been without power for nearly a week and ordered them to start the New Year in those blacked-out villages, which they did, with television cameras in tow.

Television footage showed Gov. Boris Gromov inside a home in the village of Kurovo, where electricity had been restored just hours before. "I want to apologize for what happened," Gromov told the woman of the house.

The freezing rain of the previous weekend had coated everything in its path with a thick layer of ice. As trees and power lines snapped, power was cut off to 789 villages and towns with a total of 400,000 inhabitants in the region around Moscow. Gromov said by late Friday only 13 villages remained without power, but new problems arose Saturday as snow continued to fall.

When Gromov and Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko reported back to Putin on Saturday, he told them he had information that some people had been asked to pay money to get their power restored. He then ordered an investigation.

Putin often steps in when public pressure begins to build on officials whose response to crises is seen as too slow or ineffective. For instance, when wildfires swept through much of western Russia last summer, he visited scorched villages and ordered regional governments to compensate people for their losses. He also personally took the controls of a firefighting aircraft.

While chastising officials, who in Russia are often reluctant to act without a signal from above, Putin also sends a message to ordinary Russians that everything will be fine because he is in control.
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