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Russian City Cuts Gas To Non-Payers

September 29, 1998

MOSCOW (AP) _ The local utility in a frigid, far northern city has cut gas supplies to more than 40,000 apartments because impoverished residents have stopped paying their bills.

Gas supplies were cut to more than two-thirds of all housing in Severodvinsk, a city about 600 miles north of Moscow in the Arkhangelsk region that builds nuclear submarines, ITAR-Tass reported.

Temperatures in the area are already dipping below freezing, and can be expected to plunge well below that in the weeks ahead. Tuesday’s forecast called for snow.

The 250,000 consumers in Severodvinsk owe 6 million rubles, or $400,000, and have almost completely stopped paying for gas in the past few weeks as the country’s economic crisis has worsened, said Igor Shpakovsky, head of the local gas company Arkhangelskgaz.

The region also owes the gas company $600,000, he said.

Many Russians have little or no cash because many have not been paid their wages in months and those with bank accounts have had their accounts halted in the economic crisis.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Russian air force said members of the air force military council noted at a recent meeting that more than half of their bases are not prepared for winter, ITAR-Tass said. Boilers need repairs at many bases and there is not enough money to buy fuel.

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