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    Russian energy minister meets New Year without electricity outside Moscow

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    The Russian energy minister and the governor of the Moscow Region went to different villages near the Russian capital left without electricity to celebrate New Year.

    The Russian energy minister and the governor of the Moscow Region went to different villages near the Russian capital left without electricity to celebrate New Year.

    Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Friday suggested that Moscow Region Governor Boris Gromov and Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko go to blacked out districts to mark New Year with their dwellers.

    Minister Shmatko went to the village of Kutyino, some 20 km (12.4 miles) to the south of Moscow in the Podolsk district, while Governor Gromov met New Year celebrations between villages of Kurovo and Akatovo to the west of Moscow, the Ruza district.

    "I want to bring my apologies for what has happened," Gromov told local residents of the Ruza district.

    Prime Minister Putin reproached Gromov for failing to deliver on his promise to restore electricity supplies by 6 p.m. Moscow time (15 GMT) on Friday.

    "If you were not sure, you shouldn't have promised. Thirty-five villages with 4,000 residents remain without electricity. I suggest that you go and celebrate New Year with them," Putin told Gromov and Shmatko on Friday night.

    The massive blackouts were caused by last weekend's ice storm. Freezing rain broke many power transmission lines, causing serious power outages, which still have to be dealt with.

    Gromov said 789 villages and towns with 400,000 dwellers were initially blacked out, and electricity supplies have been restored to most of them.

    Shmatko pledged to restore power supplies on January 1.

    MOSCOW REGION, January 1 (RIA Novosti)

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