Darkness at the Heart of Town

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VLADIVOSTOK: As thousands took to the streets of Vladivostok in fierce protest over 20-hour-a-day energy blackouts, TIME Moscow Bureau Chief Paul Quinn-Judge reported that seven time zones to the west, the Kremlin has been doing little as one of Russia’s largest and most important cities is torn by unrest. Vladivostok, a booming commercial port which also houses Russia's Pacific Fleet, lost electricity on May 1 after it failed to pay $37 million in back bills to Dalenergo, the region's only energy producer. A cash-strapped Moscow could do nothing but send Interior Minister Anatoly Kulikov to city hall this week with long-term advice on how to improve tax collection. But even if Vladivostok antes up the cash, Dalenergo can no longer restore electricity until it manages to pay a mining company several months worth of unpaid coal bills. Meanwhile, blockades by demonstrators have effectively paralyzed Vladivostok's downtown area.