Three people have been arrested and an ammunition factory is to be nationalized after a mechanical failure there left 22,000 people without heating in a Moscow suburb.
The director of the Klimovsk Specialized Ammunition Plant, the head of its boiler room and the deputy head of the Podolsk city administration were all detained on Tuesday, Russian investigators said.
The announcement came as it was also revealed that Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered the nationalization of the factory after a burst pipe there took out heating in homes in the area last week as temperatures plummeted below zero.
Residents in the town of Podolsk, located approximately 37 km south of Moscow, had taken to the town’s central square to demand action from authorities.
A preliminary investigation cited “improper operation of the boiler room” as the cause of the burst pipe and resulting outage.
As a result, more than 170 apartment buildings, as well as numerous medical, educational and pre-school facilities in the area were left without hot water and heating, affecting close to 20,000 people.
The plant did not initially report the incident and local authorities only learned of it when residents complained of the lack of heating en masse, according to Moscow Region Vice Governor Evgeny Khromushin, as reported by Radio Liberty.
The incident was particularly embarrassing for the Kremlin ahead of presidential elections this year, with questions being raised as to how authorities could allow such a thing to happen so close to the capital.
With the arrests, authorities have tried to shift blame away from the Kremlin.
Moscow Governor Andrey Vorobyov said the ammunition plant’s boiler room was managed “very poorly” and that there were “practically no qualified, competent personnel” working at the time of the incident.
Authorities had previously tried to quell protests sparked by the incident, with one resident saying on social media: “The police arrived quickly to disrupt us. I wish they’d brought back the heating as fast as they dispatched the cops.”
But wider unrest has been fomenting – some people complained of similar situations outside of Podolsk and said people have been freezing for years.
“And you can also take the Keramika boiler house in the village of Mikhnevo, Stupinsky district, for inspection. This is the second year that people have been freezing in damp and blackened apartments. We write and complain, but there is no result,” said one person on social media.
On the same day of the incident, a fire at a substation in Moscow led to power outages in several districts of the capital.
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