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After Moscow Floods, Mayor Hit By Wave Of Mockery

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin
Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin

MOSCOW -- Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin has been mocked online after extraordinary flooding wreaked havoc in the Russian capital and briefly submerged a street next to the Kremlin in knee-deep water.

City authorities said the flooding on July 22 was the result of a freak rainfall, but some local media outlets and government critics, such as opposition leader Aleksei Navalny, laid the blame on city hall and its ambitious My Street program to widen sidewalks and lay new paving stones.

During the heavy downpour, social networks were inundated with pictures of cars driving through what looked like rivers and lakes that had formed on iconic central Moscow streets.

In a video on Facebook of the submerged, upscale Patriarch's Ponds district, Muscovite Aleksandr Belov asked: "Does anyone know if parking for boats is free at the moment?" -- a play on the paid parking that has been introduced to Moscow in recent years.

Against the backdrop of the Kremlin walls, one police officer appeared in a photograph to have mounted from the knee-high water onto the back of a pickup truck in order to continue directing traffic on a street next to Manezh Square.

The Russian capital has been the site of frenetic building works this summer as the city government has carried out the far-reaching My Street program, which has entailed replacing roadways, paving stones, overhauling building facades, and widening sidewalks.

The daily Kommersant noted on July 25 that the areas affected by flooding have recently undergone roadworks, and a deputy department head at Mosvodostok, a state drainage-system company, told media outlet RBK that roadworks for the My Street program caused the floods.

Aleksandr Zakharov told RBK that the drainage wells had gotten blocked up by construction waste from My Street because of the torrential rain, noting that "overall, the most flooded districts were those where construction work is being carried out."

Over the weekend, Twitter users from across the political spectrum attacked Sobyanin over the flooding.

Kremlin pool journalist Dmitry Smirnov tweeted: "Will Sobyanin today assemble his emergency meeting with the words: what have you built, the Kremlin is already flooding?!"

The Rotten West Twitter handle posted a picture of a deep-sea diver with the caption: "Sergei Sobyanin assessed the quality of paving stones laid in the city center. Tverskaya Street, Moscow, Russia."

The KermlinRussia handle that lampoons President Vladimir Putin wrote: "Napoleon set Moscow on fire; Sobyanin drowned it."

Navalny went a step further further, analyzing publicly accessible documents to see who won the state contract to design the renovations on Malaya Bronnaya, a street next to Patriarch's Ponds which saw particularly bad flooding.

Navalny said the renovations were designed last year by a company belonging to Igor Chaika, a son of Russian Prosecutor-General Yury Chaika. "So, when you’re going down Bronnaya knee-deep in water and shouting 'who designed this?!' you have the answer," wrote Navalny.

So will anyone be punished by Putin for the flooding?

A tweet by blogger Rustem Adagamov suggested that Sobyanin's job may be safe. It showed an officer paddling a boatload of people down a submerged Moscow street in 1965, and said in the comments that the mayor at the time held the post for nearly 25 years.

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