Citizens took to the streets in Kandalaksha protesting the sharp increase in utilities rate. Photo courtesy of Blogger 51.
New skyrocketed utilities rate met by protest rallies all over the Kola Peninsula. Putin says a 200 percent increase is “crazy” and Murmansk Governor Kovtun sacks her Minister of housing and utilities and withdraws the increase.
Hundreds of people took to the streets in the cities of Kandalaksha and Monchegorsk on Russia’s northern Kola Peninsula this week protesting the sharp increase in utilities rate.
Tariffs on water, heating and housing have increased several times over the last years, but it was the new rates of January that overheated the growing tension among citizens. Protests started in Murmansk in early February when some 300 people participated in a rally. Larger rallies, with more participants than in Murmansk, continued in Kandalaksha and Monchegorsk this week.
The issue became a “hot-potato” when President Vladimir Putin on Monday held a meeting with Regional Development Minister Igor Slyunyayev. The Minister tried to explain to the President how the increased utilities rate affected people across Russia’s many regions when Putin interrupted him:
“…In Murmansk, you say, in some municipalities have more than 200 percent increase. Are you crazy or what?”
Igor Slyunyayev continued to explain the reasons behind what he said was a up to 225 percent increase in utilities tariffs. Putin, however, reacted promptly:
“Don’t you listen to what I tell you? Citizens are not interested, Igor, what are you talking about?”
Putin continued: “We need to do everything possible not to get people to pay unreasonable amounts. Economic approach cannot be separated from social issues.”
A transcript of the conversation from the meeting is posted at the President’s portal.
Putin now instructs a review of the existing methodology for calculating the rates so that the increase in fees for public utilities would not exceed 6 percent per year.
Shortly after Vladimir Putin’s meeting with his team in Moscow, Murmansk Governor Marina Kovtun issued a statement on her portal reversing the new tariffs.
“We have decided to keep the old regulations in force as of 30 June last year to pay for heating for the residents of these homes until the end of the heating season this year,” says Governor Marina Kovtun.
The end of the Governor’s announcement includes a short sentence informing about the dismissal of Murmansk regional minister on housing and utilities issues Gennady Mikichura.
It remains to see if the dismissal of the minister will help on Kovtun’s image among the angry citizens on the Kola Peninsula. The issue is actively debated on social media sites, like Blogger 51, a site that has posted many more photos from the protest rallies in Kandalaksha, Monchegorsk and Murmansk.