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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Trans-Siberian Targeted In Power Cut Demonstration

VLADIVOSTOK, Russia - Police in Russia's freezing far east drove back hundreds of protesters trying to block the Trans-Siberian railway line Wednesday to complain at being left without power and heat.

An energy crisis has swept Russia's far east this winter, with electricity supplies cut off for hours, even in cities such as the Pacific port of Vladivostok. Temperatures meanwhile have fallen as low as -40 degrees Celsius.

Desperate residents of Razdolnoe village, which had its power and light cut off, attempted to surge onto the track of the Trans-Siberian railway.

But a police spokesman said security forces outnumbered the protesters at the village, some 50 km from Vladivostok, and no demonstrator actually reached the track.

"You should be ashamed of yourself, pushing old ladies into ditches," one elderly woman was shown shouting on Russian television as she struggled up an embankment towards the tracks.

President Vladimir Putin ordered ministers last week to end the heating and power cuts that have left vast swathes of the country frozen. He told senior ministers he would not accept that officials had been surprised by the ferocity of the winter. A number of ministerial meetings were devoted to the issue last week and Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov promised far eastern regions that energy would return to normal next month.

The situation in Vladivostok has improved since last week, with some parts of the city now spared power cuts while others lose heat and light for up to four hours daily.

Across the region, some villages and towns have been cut off for up to 16 hours a day. The crisis forced Vladivostok residents last week to block the main road into the city and hold protests.

Local energy companies say a surge in electricity demand due to the plummeting temperatures has overloaded their ageing networks. They have also found it difficult to get a steady supply of coal for their generators.

Several officials have been indicted in connection with disrupted power supplies and ministerial teams have been sent to the far east to investigate conditions.