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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Gas Lines Persist, Prices Fall

A severe gasoline shortage in Moscow eased Wednesday in the wake of a 25-percent hike in official prices, but long lines persisted as state-run stations refused to sell to private consumers.

Gasoline appeared and prices fell at private gas stations throughout Moscow as legions of tax inspectors and Transport Ministry officials scoured the capital for stations that had hiked prices beyond what the city considered fair, according to mayor's office spokesman Igor Zverev. He did not say specifically what prices were fair for which grades of gasoline.

During the gas crisis, which started about a week ago, private stations charged as much as 8,000 rubles ($2.65) per liter for high-octane fuel. On Wednesday, the price had fallen to less than 2,000 rubles per liter.

A salesman at a private gas station in northern Moscow, who refused to be named, said that a tax inspector had stayed with the station all day Tuesday to ensure that it did not charge more than 1,200 rubles per liter for its 96-octane fuel. On Saturday, the same station had been charging 2,000 rubles per liter.

The city has no official price controls on gas with octane ratings above 92 percent, but Zverev said that the city nonetheless seeks to keep the prices accessible to the average motorist.

"Of course, they are free prices," he said. "But still they have to be agreed upon."

Under a decree signed Tuesday by Mayor Yury Luzhkov, the official price of 92-octane fuel went up to 500 rubles per liter from 400 rubles, while 76-octane rose to 380 rubles from 330.

But such prices were still not available to most consumers Wednesday, as many state-run pumps were either dry or selling exclusively to state transport.

Vladimir Ivanov, who had been waiting 3 1/2 hours at a state-owned station on Begovaya Ulitsa in northern Moscow, said he had no alternative but to wait for gas to appear at the official price.

"No one knows when it will happen," he said. "I will wait. I cannot afford commercial prices."

Zverev said that the Moscow government and the Fuel and Energy Ministry had agreed at a late meeting Tuesday to supply the capital under "an emergency schedule" until the crisis passed.

Under the agreement, oil producers Rosneft and Surgutneftegaz will supply oil to refineries in Kirishi, Ryazan and Yaroslavl in Central Russia, which will in turn refine gas for the capital to augment supplies from the Moscow Refinery, Zverev said.