Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Diplomats Given Y2K Comforting

Moscow's diplomats got together Tuesday to hear the latest word on whether they will be safe and warm in their beds this New Year.

According to representatives of the city's water, gas, telephone and electricity companies, they will.

In a special meeting organized by GUPDK, the main administration service for the diplomatic corps, more than 100 embassy officials gathered at the Ria Novosti news agency to discuss the year 2000 computer problem, or Y2K, with representatives of the utilities.

Apart from the diplomat who wanted to know whether the tap water was safe to drink, everyone listened attentively to the nine local utilities officials who took turns offering reassurances that Moscow will not be plunged into the cold and dark come Jan. 1.

"Every embassy will have heat," Ruslan Balikoyev, general director of Mosenergo, said to a brief round of applause.

The Y2K problem stems from the ability of some computers to read only the last two digits of a year, possibly causing them to mistake 2000 for 1900. This could lead to computer failure and disruption to gas and other services.

Embassies have reacted differently to the Y2K problem in Russia. The U.S. Embassy is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to send non-essential staff home for the New Year; many other embassies are advising their staff to take a vacation over the holidays and others are maintaining a full staff.

Moscow officials guaranteed the diplomatic community that preparations were well in hand and that the city was virtually self-reliant for its gas, electricity, telephone system and water.

"I can assure you that we face no problems with gas in the year 2000," said Alexander Sherstobitov from Mosgaz, which provides gas for the city.

The other utilities quickly followed with guarantee upon guarantee that there was no need to worry

Water: "No problem," said Mosvodokanal.

Electricity: "Everything's sorted out," said Mosenergo.

Phones: "Hunky-dory," agreed Rostelkom and MGTS, adding that the only problem might be with the volume of traffic during the holidays.

"If you have a problem with phoning, then it's because everyone is trying to congratulate each other," Alexei Byshlov from Rostelekom said. He said they have worked with various foreign telephone companies to address the problem.

After offering words of comfort, Byshlov confidently offered Americans refuge in Russia from the perils of the year 2000 computer problem.

"We would suggest that American citizens come here because we are facing a much better situation," he said with a grin.

But few diplomats seemed entirely convinced that everything was as good as Russian officials made out.

"It's worrying when the information is too good," said a representative from a Western embassy who, like all present, asked not to be identified. "But they have given us guarantees. We'll see if these gentlemen are still in their jobs after New Year."

"To say that everything is all right is not enough," a European embassy official said. "Are we in Paradise? No, it's Russia, of course."