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Moscow airports returning to normal after outage, snowstorm

From Maxim Tkachenko, CNN
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Passengers marooned in Moscow for days
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW:Hundreds of passengers remain at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport
  • NEW: The prosecutor general's office reports violations in passenger treatment
  • The city's largest airport says flights scheduled for Wednesday will take off as planned
RELATED TOPICS
  • Russia
  • Air Travel
  • Weather

Moscow (CNN) -- Moscow's largest airport is back to normal after a massive snowstorm that snarled air traffic across Europe, authorities said Wednesday.

Flights scheduled for Wednesday will take off as planned with a few marginal delays, said Elena Galanova, a spokeswoman for Domodedovo Airport.

"The situation at the airport is back to normal," Galanova said. "In the course of the day, it will be fully restored, despite the heavy snowstorm. There are no delayed flights from December 26 and 27. Ten earlier delayed flights from December 28 will depart shortly."

Galanova said two of the delayed flights were due to bad weather at destination airports.

A complete power outage forced the closure of the Domodedovo Airport on Sunday, and the city's Sheremetyevo Airport was grappling with dozens of canceled and delayed flights because of icy rain and snowstorms.

About 600 stranded passengers remained at Sheremetyevo Airport on Wednesday, officials said. All of them are from Aeroflot flights that were delayed or canceled. Aeroflot, the country's largest airline, said earlier it had run out of de-icing fluid to treat its planes.

"All in all, we decided to cancel 139 flights, of which more than 50 were scheduled to fly today," an Aeroflot spokesman told Russian state television Wednesday. "Most of those flights are short- and medium-range flights within Russia." But he said some international flights -- to Germany, for example -- were also canceled.

Meanwhile, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin Wednesday sharply criticized the country's Transport Ministry, airports and airlines over their handling of the crisis, saying he was especially angry at how passengers were treated. Putin spoke at a government meeting in Moscow, which was broadcast on Russian television.

"Managers of airlines and airports have spoken about everything," Putin said. "They have not mentioned one thing: how they worked with people. They didn't work with them."

Passengers continued to arrive at Domodedovo Airport after the power outage, he said, because they were unaware of it. Some 8,000 people eventually gathered there.

"What kind of work is that?" Putin said. "There was no notification. They should have warned people that the airport was not working properly and there were no flights."

He ordered the country's Industry and Trade Ministry to organize the domestic production of de-icing fluid, and called on the Russian government to work intensively on resolving problems caused by the weather.

"The situation is difficult but we should not whine about it," Putin said. "Everyone needs to work (harder)."

That especially included officials at airports and those responsible for the power supply, he said. "Some of our colleagues had to be recalled from vacations. There should be no vacations until further notice. Everybody should be at work."

At the meeting, Aeroflot's top manager pledged the airline would resume its normal schedule by midnight on Friday (4 p.m. ET Thursday).

Vitaly Savelyev, the airline's general director, said that during the winter weather, his company's planes were "covered with ice up to 5-6 cm thick." De-icing fluid, he said, is not produced in Russia.

On Wednesday, the prosecutor general's office reported on its website "numerous violations" of passengers' rights legislation had occurred at Domodedovo Airport, with several airlines responsible. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Tuesday had asked the office to check into whether the airports complied with legislation regarding passengers.

The probe found that passengers could not get drinks and hot meals, and many could not use a special room for mothers with children, according to the website.

The prosecutor general's office said it had summoned representatives from Transaero and Orenburg airlines to explain the situation, and had opened administrative violation cases against the airlines.

During the crisis, television networks were filing regular updates from the airports. Passengers, many of whom were forced to sleep on the floor, complained about poor conditions, chaos, lack of information and huge lines at the airports. Some said they did not receive medical aid that had been requested.