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    Power supply situation difficult but under control - ministers

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    MOSCOW, January 19 (RIA Novosti) - Government ministers said conditions on Russia's power and heat networks were "complicated" but "under control" Thursday, as the country's infrastructure and fuel supplies struggled to cope with soaring demand amid a deepening cold spell.

    Russian Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu said at a government session Thursday that heat supplies were being restored to the village of Tomilino in the Moscow region after a loss of supplies, but added that 21 residential buildings in the Chita Region of East Siberia were still suffering heat cuts.

    Shoigu said it was crucial to prevent power cuts in Moscow itself. "A serious power failure in Moscow may cause a chain reaction," he said, adding that the situation in the city was currently under control.

    Concerns over Moscow's ability to cope with a prolonged period of high demand have been heightened by last May's blackouts, which caused chaos across the city.

    Moscow utility Mosenergo initially said it had stockpiled fuel and was well prepared for the onset of temperatures as low as minus 30 degrees Celsius (minus 22 degrees Fahrenheit). But supplies to some industrial and commercial consumers have been cut back this week in order to maintain supply to residential customers and key services.

    Fuel could be released from Russia's strategic reserves to help combat the problem, Energy and Industry Minister Viktor Khristenko said Thursday. The country's gas fields and storage facilities were already working at full capacity, he said.

    Regional Development Minister Vladimir Yakovlev said at the government meeting that production problems had also been registered at power plants near St Petersburg in Vyborg, in the West Siberian cities of Tomsk and Omsk, in European Russia's Samara and in the Kaliningrad Region, the Russian exclave on the Baltic Sea.

    He said the supply situation in the regions, most of which have been hit by the unusually cold spell, was "complicated" but being "controlled and regulated".

    "Inter-departmental commissions and [Russian power monopoly] UES are finding reasonable ways of tackling the problem," Yakovlev said.

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