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Power Outage: City Prosecutors Call In Chubais Ally

City prosecutors on Monday stepped up their investigation into last Wednesday's power outage, calling in Mosnergo chief Arkady Yevstafyev, a key ally of Unified Energy Systems chief Anatoly Chubais, for questioning.

"Yevstafyev is a witness in the investigation ... and he is being questioned" about the blackout, said Sergei Marchenko, a spokesman for the city prosecutor's office, said by telephone Monday afternoon.

President Vladimir Putin on Monday ordered Industry and Energy Minister Viktor Khristenko to get involved in the investigation and report back to the Security Council on Saturday. Khristenko has said that outdated equipment was the most probable cause of the blackout.

Also Monday, Mosenergo said it would cut a planned dividend to shareholders for 2004 by about $12 million and spend the money on modernizing its equipment instead. Last Monday, two days before the blackout, the company had recommended a 50 percent hike in the dividend.

The city prosecutors' office said that the damaged transformers at the Chagino electricity substation, which caught fire and sparked power outages across Moscow and four surrounding regions, had been sent to forensic experts for examination.

Last Thursday, city prosecutors questioned Chubais for four hours about his role in the blackout.

Mayor Yury Luzhkov has accused Mosenergo's management of incompetence over the power failure and vowed to sue the utility as soon as the damages incurred by the city are calculated.

Izvestia on Monday reported an unnamed source at City Hall as saying that officials had provisionally calculated the damages at more than 2 billion rubles ($70 million).

Luzhkov has long been at odds with Chubais over control of UES's Moscow subsidiary, but on Monday City Hall banned a protest by the liberal Yabloko party against Mosenergo outside the utility's head office.

The Tula, Kaluga and Ryazan regions also plan to file claims against for damages against the power monopoly, Izvestia said.

(The Moscow Times 31.v.05)

 
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