Ongoing power outages in Russia have Putin fuming
By LYNN BERRY
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
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