Russia’s senior leaders are still unsure how to respond publicly to the incident in Chechnya where the Grozny District Court ruled to write off the population’s gas debts to the amount of 9 billion rubles, provoking a wave of similar proposals in at least seven other regions, reports finanz.ru.
This is a “very complex matter” and the Kremlin “has not taken a stance”, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said during a press conference on Monday.
“In this case, the commodity has been supplied to the end consumer by a company, and, of course, the company is counting on this money, even in the context of prospective investment programs,” he explained.
“These matters cannot be considered without the company’s interests or without taking into account the interests of simple citizens at the same time. The matter is very complex, and in this case, the Kremlin does not have any position,” Peskov said.
The decision of the Grozny District Court was made at the request of the prosecutor’s office, which claimed that Gazprom had not filed debt collection documents, and had thus failed to comply with the limitation period.
Furthermore, the situation surrounding the debt could provoke “social unrest” the prosecutor’s office argued.
The ruling was given on Friday 18 January, and by Monday at least seven other Russian regions had voiced similar demands.
Politicians from the Russian provinces of Smolensk, Astrakhan, Samara, Rostov and Kursk, as well as the Chuvash Republic and Bashkortostan asked their local prosecutor’s offices to “learn from the Chechen experience” and “investigate the possibility of filing a similar claim”.
Gazprom has appealed the court’s ruling. According to the gas company’s own calculations, Chechen consumers owe it a total of 16.2 billion rubles, with the population itself owing 13.2 billion.
In the middle of 2017, Gazprom estimated that the Caucasian republics owe it 55 billion rubles. Since then, the company has stopped regularly disclosing the owed amounts.