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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

A Blackout Looms in Kamchatka

Kamchatka authorities on Wednesday warned that the far eastern region was facing a blackout in less than two weeks after fuel supplies were cut to the local power station due to debts.

Kamchatka lawmakers on Wednesday appealed to Putin to intervene, and Federation Council Senator Lev Boitsov, who represents the region, urged the upper house to lobby the government for financial aid.

Boitsov said Kamchatskenergo, a subsidiary of the national power grid Unified Energy Systems, has only eight days of fuel reserves left.

"All of the main consumers will be cut off from electricity, including nuclear and military sites" in eight days, Interfax reported him as saying. "Within 12 days, the whole region will be left without electricity."

Kamchatskenergo's sole supplier, the state-owned oil major Rosneft, refused Wednesday to send this month's shipment due to the power station's debt of 1 billion rubles ($323 million) and failure to pay for new supplies.

At the end of last year, Kamchatskenergo and Rosneft had signed an agreement to restructure the debt over two years.

"We received payments on time for just the first three months of this year," said Rosneft spokesman Alexander Stepanenko. "Then there were delays, and in April Kamchatskenergo stopped paying."

He said blame for the problem rested squarely on Kamchatskenergo and UES.

Kamchatskenergo said consumer nonpayment had forced it to default on its liabilities. Last week Kamchatskenergo pulled the plug on 300 companies that owed more than 360 million rubles ($11 million).

Kamchatskenergo cut off electricity to one of the control and monitoring centers for the space forces in January over nonpayment. The decision led to a sharp response from the military and the Kremlin.

Kamchatka lacks any fuel resources of its own. The region with several hundred thousand residents is located between the Sea of Okhotsk, the Bering Sea and the Pacific Ocean. Its aging regional power plants were built to operate on oil fuel, which is easy to transport.

"In Soviet times, no one counted expenses," said UES spokesman Yury Melikhov. "Oil fuel is the most expensive kind of fuel. When you include very high transportation expenses, Kamchatka has the most expensive electricity in Russia.

"Financial aid alone from the government would not resolve the situation," he said. "We need a regional development program."

He added that gas deposits have been found in the region that could be tapped to replace the transported fuel but they remain undeveloped.