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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Nuclear Base Dark After Fuel Runs Out

All industries making nuclear submarines and missiles in the Arctic port city of Severodvinsk have ground to a halt because of lack of fuel at the local power station, a city official said Friday.


Vasily Uvarov, deputy head of the city administration, said the closure of the main North navy base Thursday has been caused by failure of the Russian government to pay the military plants more than 300 billion rubles ($130 million) for the renovation of submarines, the handling of waste and destruction of vessels declared redundant under arms accords.


He added that an official had flown to Moscow to try to obtain the necessary funds but there was no indication when the power would be restored.


The city of Severodvinsk, which is the country's major producer of nuclear submarines and missiles, owes 70 billion rubles to suppliers, Uvarov said, adding that the local electric company could no longer buy fuel and was forced to switch off electricity in the industrial part of the city.


Earlier this week the Moscow power supply company temporarily switched off the electricity at the central command post of the Strategic Rocket Forces because of unpaid bills. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin responded with fury, calling for the power-cutter to be punished, but no action was taken Friday.


Uvarov said in a telephone interview that the situation in Severodvinsk "is extremely difficult. At present we have fuel only to keep equipment ready to start production and supply people with heat. But this cannot last forever."


Electricity is also cut off in some military units of the navy base using power produced at the city station, he said.


Igor Chifonov, spokesman for the Russian Navy, said the situation is a serious threat to the military preparedness of the navy and consequently to the security of the country.


"Severodvinsk is of great importance for the whole Russian Navy," he said in a telephone interview in Moscow. "Military plants there produce the lion's share of all Russian vessels. To stop production in Severodvinsk means to destroy the navy. Government must find money to finance the city," he said.


Non-payment of bills is typical of defense plants and their civilian cousins all over Russia. But Uvarov considered the stakes in the northern city to be much higher.


"Bear in mind, our factories construct and repair not toys but nuclear submarines," he said.


"Besides, wages went unpaid at several plants for three months, so the socio-economic situation in the city where almost everyone of the 200,000 population works at military plants is tense," Uvarov added.


He also noted that in Bolshoi Kamen, a similar base in the Far East, several hundred workers protested last February at the administrative headquarters.


"Only a decade ago, the very idea of a demonstration at such a plant would have been enough to merit a prison term, but now everything is possible," he said.


Power was also cut last year to the navy base in the Far East but was switched on after the station was stormed by the military.


In December 1993, a state electric company cut power to an air control center in Rostov-on-Don in southern Russia while several planes were in the air, including one carrying President Boris Yeltsin.