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Putin tours Russia flood scene, berates officials

17 july 2012, 12:58
Russian President Vladimir Putin. ©RIA NOVOSTI
Russian President Vladimir Putin. ©RIA NOVOSTI
Russian President Vladimir Putin has visited the scene of a recent flood that killed 172 people, berating officials for possibly deceiving him about the timeliness of their response, AFP reports.

Putin's unannounced trip late Sunday to the southern town of Krymsk came as the media continued to speculate about insufficient warnings about the disaster -- the first since the Russian strongman's return to a third Kremlin term.

The July 7 pre-dawn floods in the Krasnodar region killed many people in their sleep and destroyed the property of some 30,000.

"Is there anyone here from the Investigative Committee," Putin demanded at the start of a meeting that lead Russian state news broadcasts Monday in a sign of the political implications the flood carries for the president's new term.

"I will definitely talk (to its chief) and give him the required orders," said Putin.

"People here think that there was no early warning -- despite the fact that the previous head of the administration said that there was one," said Putin in reference to an official who has since been fired.

"The Investigative Committee must issue an objective assessment of the actions of all officials," Putin warned.

News reports have cited locals as saying that those applying for emergency assistance had to sign documents stating they had received early warnings about a potential flood.

Some Russian lawmakers have demanded the dismissal of the region's powerful governor Alexander Tkachev while others said the heavy toll -- the largest from a flood in the post-Soviet era -- proved the current authorities' ineptitude.

At the start of his first term as president in 2000, Putin came under furious criticism for his slow response to the Kursk nuclear submarine sinking and since then has tried to show himself in command of other disaster rescues.

He paid an immediate visit to Krymsk on the day of the flooding to meet local officials and on this occasion said he had also taken the time to tour the town and hear out residents' complaints.

"You hear what they say," Putin said at the televised meeting.

"People here say that the local services ended up being unprepared at the moment of the disaster to deal with what was happening," he said in a firm voice.

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