MOSCOW -- Angry at officials he said have failed to cope with severe power outages, the head of Russian-controlled Crimea said that he is “starting to understand” Josef Stalin, the Soviet dictator who purged millions, including his own loyal henchmen.
In a comments broadcast by local TV station Pervy Krymsky, Aksyonov used vulgar language and invoked “Grandpa Stalin” while berating officials he said had failed to implement his orders to restore power to homes as winter weather bites on the Black Sea peninsula.
Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014 after sending in troops and staging a referendum called illegal by Kyiv and the West. It has suffered repeated power outages since November, including blackouts triggered when activists blew up power lines supplying the peninsula.
The authorities have been rationing electricity. At a crisis-management meeting in the regional capital, Simferopol, on January 4, Aksyonov seethed at officials he said had cut supplies to homes that are entirely dependent on electricity for power.
“Supply the homes that are entirely dependent on electric power, and supply the other ones using generators under a separate scheme. Do it! We’ve said this 100 times. (Expletive) The order was given and no damn thing is working anywhere,” Aksyonov said.
“We’ll soon have to do all the work for all of you,” he continued, in remarks carried by the Crimean Desk of RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service. “Achieving a result is an impossible task. I’m starting to understand Grandpa Stalin.”
Aksyonov, a former businessman and Russian nationalist politician, has been dogged by accusations that he was a midlevel criminal gang member in the 1990s, with the nickname "Goblin."
The Ukrainian power lines that supplied Crimea with 250 megawatts of electricity have been restored, but those deliveries have not resumed because the contract for energy supplies to the peninsula has expired.
Currently, the Crimean Peninsula is drawing electricity supplies from its own generators, from a line hastily established to carry power from southern Russia, and from Russian generators.
Sergei Shakhov, the top emergency official in the region, has said Crimea is currently receiving 931 megawatts of electricity -- short of the demand of 1,350 megawatts.
On January 5, cafes and restaurants were told to close by 9 p.m. to ease the crisis.
Crimeans are grumbling about how supplies have been apportioned, and there are signs that patience is waning.
In the town of Kerch, the wall of a cinema where a big portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin had been painted following the annexation was recently painted over in plain brown after unidentified men scrawled profane language over it.
A new message was later daubed over the brown. It reads: “Hold on people, it’ll be summer soon.”
With reporting by the Crimean Desk of RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service