. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin Turns On the Power in the Far East

APAnatoly Chubais showing President Vladimir Putin the scheme of the Amur region's Bureya plant prior to the official opening of the first block on Wednesday.
President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday opened a hydroelectric station in the country's Far East that is the largest built in the post-Soviet era, pushing the start button on the central control panel of the plant that will fill some of the gaps in the region's power supply.

Construction of the Bureya dam and power station began in the mid-1970s, but construction was virtually frozen for years in the 1990s in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Putin, accompanied by Anatoly Chubais, head of national electricity monopoly Unified Energy Systems, said completion of the first unit of the plant was "a virtual miracle," according to Itar-Tass.

Chubais called the plant "the first large construction project of Russian capitalism."

The power plant, on the Bureya River in the Amur region about 5,500 kilometers southeast of Moscow, is designed to have a capacity of 2,000 megawatts when it reaches full operation in 2008.

The Far East is resource-rich but sparsely populated and remote from Moscow, and regional leaders have complained of neglect by the Kremlin. Power shortages have plagued the region in several recent winters.

Putin said the hydroelectric plant opening was one step in the federal plan for developing the region and "it is necessary to see that all other elements of the program be implemented, too."

"In time this station will become the most powerful in the Far East, and its finished product will solve the energy problems of regions like Amur and Khabarovsk," Putin said. "Once running at full power, the station will prevent energy crisises and add spark to the economic development of the Far East," he said.

Chubais said getting the first unit at Bureya to come online had cost around $1.2 billion and that he was ready to entertain the idea of attracting $1 billion from the private sector to finish the project. (MT, AP)