Gas shortage ignites protest in Murmansk

Thousands of households lost their cooking heat and the eternal gas fire in front of the famous Alyesha war memorial silently died out as Murmansk Oblast experienced one of its most serious disruptions of gas supplies ever.


Regional Governor Marina Kovtun fully blames Murmanoblgaz, the main regional gas supplier, for the situation. According to Kovtun, the leadership of the company has displayed “a horrific disorderliness, complete lack of responsibility and unacceptable negligence” in its work. She argues that the company has not undertaken any modernization measures, but rather rather kept the system going “in the old way, without perspectives”.

Kovtun admits that she has received huge numbers of concerned letters and complains by locals hit by the shutdown. It was mostly the cities of Murmansk and Severomorsk, which were affected by the shortage, a press release from the regional administration reads.

Measures are now being taken to overcome the situation and the regional authorities have issued guarantees to other gas supplying companies for the needed deliveries. Murmansk is itself a key shareholder of Murmanoblgaz and now intends to demand an extraordinary shareholders assembly where the current company director Aleksandr Chernenko will be dismissed.

“I can guarantee you that this will never happen again”, Kovtun stresses.

However, the troubled situation with gas supplies is not new. In 2011, Murmanoblgaz  leader Aleksandr Chernenko in an open letter to President Dmitri Medvedev underlined that the gas situation in the region is “critical” and that as many as 256,000 people in the region soon could face “an uncontrolled shutdown of gas supplies”.

“I am forced to address you in the interests of the 256,000 people in the region and the 750 employees of the Murmanoblgaz”, Chernenko wrote in the letter. “At present, there is not sufficient gas in the region and Murmanoblgaz does not have the financial means for its acquisition and there is not a single person in the Murmansk government able to improve the situation”, he added.

Murmansk Oblast is one of the least gasificated regions in Russia and is dependent of mazut for winter heating. Regional authorities long put their hopes in the development of huge gas resources in the nearby Barents Sea, however perspectives appear bleak after Gazprom in 2012 announced that will not develop the Shtokman project.