Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 227

The authorities in Vladivostok, in Russia’s Far East, declared a state of emergency Tuesday, saying half of the city’s buildings were without heat. Schools and daycare centers were closed down, and officials said that hospitals would be evacuated if the situation did not improve. Conditions were made worse by a blizzard which hit the city on Monday. Vladivostok city officials pinned the blame for the situation on Dalenergo, the region’s energy supplier, which, they said, had allowed leaks in steam pipes and had not built sufficient reserves of heating oil. The city administration has asked President Boris Yeltsin to set a special commission to resolve the crisis. Andrei Rappaport, deputy head of the United Energy Systems (UES), Russia’s electricity monopoly, rejected the criticism of Dalenergo, saying that it was providing the city with the necessary heat (Russian agencies, December 8).

The communist-led opposition in the State Duma, meanwhile, is expected today to call for the resignation of UES chief Anatoly Chubais and Fuel and Energy Minister Sergei Generalov, who they say are responsible for the energy crisis in Russia’s Far East and Far North. Last week, Chubais visited the Kamchatka peninsula, where electricity was cut on November 30 due to a lack of energy supplies for power stations. Chubais said then that Russia was extracting enough oil to provide heating supplies, but that the drop in rubles value were making them too expensive. Chubais warned that if measures were not taken to reverse this trend, then by the end of this year or in the first quarter of 1999, “we will get into a situation where there is simply not enough fuel oil in the country” (NTV, December 5). Kamchatka has received help: A tanker carrying heating oil arrived there yesterday, and another two, including one tanker carrying 15,000 tons of heating oil from South Korea, are expected to arrive within a week (Russian agencies, December 8).

Several governors in the Far East have defended Chubais from the attacks by the Duma opposition. Kamchatka Governor Vladimir Biryukov said Tuesday that the energy crisis in his region occurred after the Finance Ministry froze payments from the federal government’s debt to the region. He called the attacks on Chubais “groundless.” Magadan Governor Valentin Tsvetkov also absolved Chubais of responsibility for the crisis (Russian agencies, December 8).