Around 150 residents of Klin, around 56 miles north-west of Moscow, blocked the federal Leningrad highway on Monday afternoon because they are tired of going dirty and living with no hot water, which had been out of service for nearly three weeks.
Initially townspeople blocked the road running from Moscow to St Petersburg for about an hour, chanting “we want to wash” before being pushed off the road by police. They then continued to protest in the city centre into the night, demanding that the municipal district head of administration Klin Alain Sokolskaya deal with it personally. Hot water was returned to the town immediately after the protest.
Most Russian cities run “district level” combined heat and power plants covering multiple blocks or even entire cities at a time in a holdover from the old Soviet system. Many have been switched over to newer gas and combined-cycle systems in recent years, but some are older coal-burners in need of replacement. Klin’s system of private boiler houses hut down en masse however as it emerged that they owed millions of roubles in energy costs, leaving residents in the cold.
When people complained, it was initially said that the boilers had been disconnected for scheduled maintenance with a promise they would be turned back on by June 27th — but it did not happen. District administrators instead belatedly explained that the affected streets were being serviced by private boiler houses which had been cut off owing huge sums. On June 29th Wedge Power promised residents a recalculation of water charges and the return of hot water by July 1st, but again nothing happened and the district administration was forced into legal action.
Anarcho-syndicalist group Kras explained:
The cause of the crisis was, ultimately, the privatisation of water. Moscow region’s deputy minister of housing, Vladimir Melnik, who promised on the day to sort out hot water for the houses near Klin, said it had been suspended due to accumulated debts to suppliers of resources. The bulk of the debt had been paid by the municipality, he said, but the total boiler debt exceed several million rubles. According to Miller, the debt accumulated because the owners of the company have spent the money collected for the utilities on “its objectives, including the repayment of a loan.” As a result residents in 33 apartment houses were left without hot water.
Authorities have handed over documents on the privatisation of the boiler rooms to law enforcement agencies for investigation legality of the transaction, according to a press release. The original company buyout took place with the participation of former Moscow regional chief Aleksandra Postriganya [whose “imperial mansion” caused a scandal in 2014], according to the Ministry HCS Moscow.
This article is an edited machine translation of a piece posted by anarcho-syndicalist group Kras