KRYMSK, RUSSIA // The Russian government yesterday blamed local officials in the inundated south for the deaths of scores of people trapped by the weekend floods, as the presiden, Vladimir Putin, tried to deflect public anger at perceived failures of leadership.
Moscow's emergencies minister condemned "mistakes" by authorities on the ground after at least 171 people were killed in the Black Sea region of the Kuban. Putin himself was seen on television sternly demanding his subordinates report back to him by the end of the week.
Two months into his third term, Putin will recall the start of his first, 12 years ago, when he was accused of reacting slowly to national disasters.
He is also mindful of discontent with the authorities' competence and appears anxious to divert any blame.
In the town of Krymsk, between the regional capital Krasnodar and Russia's main trading port at Novorossiisk, angry people salvaging what they could from shattered homes complained of being let down by their leaders.
Two days after Mr Putin flew in to view the damage and grill officials, postal workers went from house to house in Krymsk making $300 payments and promising further compensation.