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Russian National Power Company Cuts Power to Nonpaying CustomersAired September 5, 2000 - 2:39 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: The lights are out for a number of small communities across Russia. It is not due to a storm or other emergency. The power has been cut intentionally.
As CNN's Steve Harrigan reports, it's the power company's way of teaching nonpaying customers a lesson.
STEVE HARRIGAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Olga Alexandrovna needs four buckets of water a day to cook, clean and drink. But like everyone else in the village of Markova, the 78-year- old never knows when the electric pumps will be on.
OLGA ALEXANDROVNA (through translator): It affects your nerves. If you knew there would be water in the morning, you could sleep at night.
HARRIGAN: Electricity has been shut off in Markova and small towns like it across Russia, part of a new strategy by the national electric company to collect $5 billion in overdue payments.
ANDREI TRAPEZNIKOV, RAO ENERGY SPOKESMAN: This is the habit of not paying for electricity. We call it stealing.
HARRIGAN: The punishment can prove severe.
(on camera): When they turn the power back on suddenly, not all the wiring can handle it. And in a town without electricity, when your house goes on fire, you can't get water out of an electric well and you can't use a telephone to call the fire department.
(voice-over): The doctor can't take an X-ray and the ambulance can't get gas. The one factory still operating works a night shift when the power is on. Women bring their children to work.
That is no longer an option at the local collective farm, where wires have been cut down for failure to pay. Unable to repair aged machinery, the men stand around in various stages of intoxication.
Steve Harrigan, CNN, Markova, Russia.
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