Putin says Russian officials must spend dark New Year's Eve
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Friday three top Russian officials should spend New Year's Eve in the dark after failing to fulfill their promise to repair damaged power lines.
"You said everything would be fine by 1800 (1500 GMT)," Russia's de facto number one said in nationally televised comments to the three.
"You should not have said anything if you were not sure," he added during a meeting that included the governor of the Moscow region as well as federal energy minister and the head of the local power utility.
"I think that you should go and spend New Year's with them," Putin said of those without power in the Moscow region.
The televised comments were followed an hour later by news reports saying that Moscow region governor Boris Gromov was already on his way to meet the locals.
"He will visit two villages that were left without electricity and meet the New Year together with the residents," Gromov's spokesman told ITAR-TASS.
Parts of the Moscow region have been without electricity since December 26 after an unseasonal spell of freezing rain snapped power lines and wreaked havoc with Moscow's air travel.
The travel fiasco prompted Putin on Wednesday to ban all officials responsible for transport and relevant matters from going on New Year holidays.
"No vacations until special notice," Putin told Wednesday's government meeting.
Russia's president-turned-premier has projected an authoritative image of a man who can solve problems usually left unattended by the country's vast bureaucracy.
His can-do approach has been cultivated by a cooperative state media and has helped keep him the country's most popular figure over the past decade.
Putin's popularity and continued dominance over Russian politics has also raised speculation that he will seek a return to the Kremlin in a presidential election scheduled for 2012.
But he has dismissed such talk as premature and stressed that any decision about 2012 will be taken together with his protege and successor Dmitry Medvedev.
© 2010 AFP