New York: Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is seeking re-election this year, virtually faces the “heat” from voters following a public outcry over power outages that has plagued the country resulting in a life-threatening lack of heating in Moscow’s frigid temperatures, besides the frustration of families of soldiers who are getting weary of the almost two-year war with Ukraine, the media reported citing political observers. President Vladimir Putin is facing the domestic zero hours, exacerbated by Moscow’s on-going war in Ukraine, a political adviser on post-Soviet and international politics said.
Putin, seeking another term in the March election, faces backlash over power outages that have plagued Russia in recent months, often resulting in a life-threatening lack of heating.
“Putin is facing another grave crisis due to the on-going heating disaster” that was pushing Russia toward “the breaking point”, political adviser Jason Jay Smart told Newsweek.
“There have been estimates that perhaps thousands of Russian civilians have frozen to death,” Smart said.
“Incredibly, the genesis of this crisis, as a UK Ministry of Defence report said, is that the Kremlin has been pushing regional governors in Russia to make infrastructure cuts, since early 2022, to help finance the war in Ukraine.
“This is another sign that Russia is becoming increasingly unstable and nearing the breaking point,” he said.
Outages had left approximately 25 per cent of Moscow residents without heat in brutal winter weather as of earlier this month, while a 60-year-old Russian Navy officer reportedly froze to death in his home near St. Petersburg after losing power on January 3.
A British Defence Ministry intelligence update posted on Thursday to ‘X’ suggested that the blackouts were due to the Ukraine war using up funds that might have otherwise gone to maintain an aging utilities infrastructure.
“In recent months, there have been heating breakdowns in 16 locations across Russia,” the update reads.
“These breakdowns amidst sub-freezing temperatures are an expansion of an existing problem that has plagued Russian cities and towns for decades, but has likely become more acute due to Russian wartime policies.”
“Russia has routinely prioritised military spending over reinvestment in general public infrastructure,” the report pointed out. Additionally, mobilisation has likely led to a workforce shortage across all industries including qualified heating engineers and plumbers,” it added.
The ministry went on to say that Putin had asked Russian Minister of Emergency Situations Aleksandr Kurenkov to resolve the issue, calling it “a key concern for Putin ahead of the forthcoming Russian presidential elections”.
The blackouts have edged some Russians to directly appeal to Putin and demand accountability from local officials as the heating crisis is far from the only problem the Russian President faces at home. Domestic discontent is also growing over the rising cost of groceries, with rampant inflation and Western sanctions having pushed the prices of daily items like eggs, meat and vegetables making it unaffordable for the citizens. Family members of Russian troops deployed in Ukraine have also been protesting the treatment of their loved ones in Ukraine, where no end has been sighted to end a conflict that has stretched for nearly two years.
Opinion polls in Russia indicate that the domestic troubles have done little to impact Putin’s approval rating, which has taken only a tiny hit leading into the election. (IANS)