Russia is experiencing a harsh winter.
Sefa Karacan/Anadolu/Getty Images
Heating systems are breaking down in Russia’s harsh winter, leaving many people freezing.Much of Russia’s Soviet-era infrastructure needs modernizing.But Russia is splurging on war rather than public utilities.
Heating systems are breaking down in Russia’s harsh winter, leaving many people freezing as Moscow continues to spend on its war in Ukraine.
Parts of Russia are experiencing an unusually cold winter — temperatures in Siberia hit -70 degrees Fahrenheit in December.
The brutal conditions are made worse because Russia’s infrastructure is poorly maintained, with many of its facilitates dating from the Soviet era, according to media reports.
This has caused a spate of breakdowns in central heating systems since December that has even hit parts of the Moscow region and the city of St. Petersburg, The Bell, an independent Russian media outlet, reported on January 16.
In one incident, more than a dozen people suffered from burns in the Western Russian city of Nizhny Novgorod when a large heating pipe burst, causing boiling water to flow into the streets, DW reported, citing a local news channel on Telegram. The damaged pipe also caused over 3,000 people to lose access to heating.
“We are still using the communal infrastructure that was made during the Soviet era,” said Russian lawmaker Svetlana Razvorotneva, who is a member of a national urban engineering committee, per DW. About 40% of the communal heating grid in the country needs to be replaced urgently, she added.
However, funding for public utilities made up just 2.2% of Russia’s total expenditure last year, according to the Financial Times. In contrast, Moscow’s spending on military expenses made up about 21% of Russia’s budget in the same year, per Reuters.
Russia is also ramping up defense spending to one-third of its budget this year as the war in Ukraine looks set to enter its third year, Russia’s finance ministry said in October, per Reuters.
Even so, Russian leader Vladimir Putin is still almost certain to win a fifth term in Russia’s presidential election in March.
“People are dissatisfied with the state of communal services, but they perceive the situation as a chronic disease,” Denis Volkov, the director of Levada Center, an independent research organization, told the FT. “When something breaks, it annoys them, but it does not come as a surprise.”