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UK intel: Wartime policies magnify Russia’s chronic underinvestment in public works

Heating systems are failing across Russia, leaving residents in sub-zero distress, as years of military prioritization over infrastructure combine with wartime strains on budgets and workforces, per UK intelligence.
A view of St. Basil’s Cathedral at the Red Square in Moscow on 17 March 2020. Source: Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency

Russia’s heating breakdowns amid sub-zero temperatures stem from longtime military prioritization over domestic infrastructure, exacerbated by wartime strains on budgets and workers, according to the UK Defense Ministry’s intelligence report.

The ministry wrote:

  • In recent months, there have been heating breakdowns in 16 locations across Russia. These breakdowns amidst sub-freezing temperatures are an expansion of an existing problem that has plagued Russian cities and towns for decades, but has likely become more acute due to Russian wartime policies.
  • Russia has routinely prioritised military spending over re-investment in general public infrastructure, especially since their invasion of Ukraine in 2022. Many regional governments have been asked to take on the burden of operating with less federal revenue and have been asked to fund local volunteer forces, which has likely stretched their budgets and necessitated some cuts to maintenance spending. Additionally, mobilisation has likely led to a workforce shortage across all industries including qualified heating engineers and plumbers.
  • Putin has asked the Minister of Emergency Situations, Aleksandr Kurenkov, to ensure the supply of heating and electricity to residents. Appearing to tackle this issue is likely a key concern for Putin ahead of the forthcoming Russian presidential elections.

Last fall, the British Defense Ministry reported that Russia planned to increase military spending by 68% in 2024, with Russia’s government is diverting more resources to the military while reducing funding for healthcare and education, and increasing financial pressures on Russian businesses.

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