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Russia: No Rubles, No Ride On Public Transport

St. Petersburg, 20 May 1997 (RFE/RL) -- The Russian city of St. Petersburg owes its gasoline suppliers the equivalent of $2.9 million.

Last week, gasoline suppliers -- Aris, Faeton, Peterburgskaya Neftyanaya Kompaniya and Kirishi-Servis -- decided to cut by increments the amount of gasoline supplied on credit for the city's buses: 25 percent starting Wednesday and 50 percent effective Friday.

The action has left dozens of buses stranded in municipal parking lots, and commuters scrambling for alternate transport. Yesterday, 178 of the city's 1,500 buses stalled in place for lack of gasoline. Crowds built up at bus stops along Nevsky Prospect. Taxis did a brisk business

Sergei Zenevich, deputy head of the City Hall Transportation Committee, said the city will try to clear its debt.

"There is no other escape from the situation," he says.

But, Olga Pokrovskaya, of the Finance Committee, said that Passazhiravtotrans, the city enterprise charged with managing the city's 1,500 buses, should a better job of managing the money it already receives.

"This isn't just a financial problem. It is a problem of effectiveness and management," she says.

Our correspondent was unable to reach representatives of Passazhiravtotrans for comment. The gas suppliers, Faeton and Peterburgskaya Neftyanaya Kompaniya, reached by telephone, declined to comment.

On Friday, city Governor Vladimir Yakovlev put on a show of action. He donned a bus driver's hat and, as an orchestra played, sent off 100 new white Ford mini-buses to operate on 32 of the city's existing bus and trolley routes.