Did Russian and American cosmonauts nearly crash on landing because of a blackout?
Russia is the home of absurdity, indeed. People are paying for their electricity supply in every country, except, it seems, Russia. Otherwise, the Russian energy monopolist, RAO UES of Russia, wouldn't be starting a destructive war with its consumers. National defense establishments are treated as holy cows all over the world. But here in Russia some petty director of an energy supplying enterprise can cut the power to strategic military infrastructure without extensive negotiations. At that, he doesn't care what consequences this blackout may entail for this military unit and further even for himself.
You may say it is a trite story, but still: The Kamchatskenergo regional energy company cut off military unit over unsettled payments for electricity supply. The military unit operated strategically important infrastructure of Russia's Space Force. It was said power cut-off was made after communicating with the command of the military unit, though this may sound incredible. The general commanding the military unit could be brought to a military tribunal for doings of this kind.
Some time later, the Office of the Public Prosecutor in the city of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky investigated the blackout situation. It decreed that the energy supplying enterprise had violated the law and accused Kamchatskenergo Director General Yury Delnov of causing an illegal blackout. What do you think happened next?
Director Delnov didn't hire a lawyer and start a court process to prove that the accusations were unfair. On the contrary, he immediately called the central management in Moscow and complained that political pressure had been exerted upon him.
Right after the complaint, the press service of RAO UES of Russia issued a statement with the main idea of declaring that the power industry wouldn't tolerate any pressure from anybody. If this had happened in some other country, the head of a department where the press service ventured such demarches would have to resign, or he would have to dismiss the press service. However, here in Russia the situation is quite different. Head of RAO UES of Russia Anatoly Chubais asked RF Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov to "stop the meddling of law enforcement authorities into the activity of the power industry."
RAO's press service insisted that the blackout hadn't threatened the security of the country. It is not ruled out that the situation wasn't dangerous indeed, but there are numerous competent authorities that determine whether Russia's security is threatened or not. It is not the director of a regional energy supplying company or a press secretary in the central office in Moscow who decides to what extent the situation is dangerous for Russia's energy safety. RAO's press release says the power cut was made after coordinating it with the command of the military unit.
It may be that both parties, the military unit and the energy supplying company, had reached some agreement connected with the blackout. At the same time, this doesn't mean at all that the unit's command broke no laws when it agreed that the strategic infrastructure could have its power shut off. Even the military can be mistaken, especially when they suffer from pressure exerted by the local energy system or its influential friends. It is the Prosecutor's Office that must investigate whether the blackout at the space infrastructure entailed dangerous consequences or not. A court is to study the case and determine who is right situation and who is not. The Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky Office of the Public Prosecutor is going to hand the case over to a court as early as next week. To all appearances, both sides, RAO UES of Russia and the Kamchatskenergo energy supplying company are especially afraid because of the prospective consideration of the case at court. Why?
It is not accidental that both sides feel so frightened because the flight control station of the Russian Space Force was also among the infrastructure that lost power. This station is one of the four Russian complexes operating with the International Space Station. It may be that such power cut-offs are the main reason why Russia regularly has to pay huge fines to the USA for failure to meet the engagements on the International Space Station. The reason why the military unit had its power shut off was its unsettled 4-month debt for electricity supply, which looks rather insignificant against the background of international problems that the blackout probably entailed. In such a situation it seems that it is not the Prosecutor's Office that exerts pressure upon the director of the energy supplying company, but the powerful state-run monopoly exerts pressure upon judges in the regional court where the case is to be considered.
Unfortunately, we'll never learn the truth about the whole of the scandal. Is it possible that a power shut-off of this sort was the reason why the Russian-American crew from the International Space Station had a hard landing 500 kilometers from the place where the landing had been planned to be made?