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Moscow Metro Security -- A Showcase, Or Just A Show?

President Dmitry Medvedev (left), Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu (right), and Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin visit the Okhotny Ryad metro station to inspect its security system.
President Dmitry Medvedev's visit to the Moscow metro station Okhotny Ryad earlier this week -- a showcase station designed to show off new security measures -- won't bring much comfort to those worried about terrorist attacks in the Russian capital.

None of the new equipment seemed to work.

The president inspected newly installed metal detectors and X-ray machines designed to check suspicious packages at the station, which is close to the Kremlin. But the Russian News Service quotes one metro employee as saying that “the people who know how to use it left immediately after the president."

The high-tech equipment, the agency reported, was sitting in a corner of the station without any kind of police protection. A lone policeman could be seen at the entrance to the metro, but he didn't know how to work the equipment.

Okhotny Ryad boasts video screens broadcasting messages from the Emergency Situations Ministry -- public-safety warnings on how to ride the escalators and how drugs are bad for you -- as well as new information stands where operators answer questions from a call center,

I tried the information stand that Medvedev had used but nobody answered my call.

Judging by another journalist's experiences at the station, the president's own security isn't the best, either.

A "Kommersant" reporter who bumped into the president and his entourage by accident wrote of how he managed to get within a couple of meters of Medvedev without being challenged. It took security 10 minutes before they asked him for identification and eventually asked him to leave.

The newspaper listed a series of promises made by metro chief Dmitry Gaev in the wake of previous metro attacks, such as installing closed-circuit cameras in all of the metro wagons after the blast at the Avtozavodskaya metro station in 2004. By 2009, the Interior Ministry reported that there were cameras in only 469 wagons.

In 2005, Gaev said that within 2 1/2 years metal detectors would be installed in all stations. There are none in use at stations today.

After the deadly attacks in March 2010, Gaev said the metro needed 300 to 400 sniffer dogs. Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said on January 27 that the metro had only 40 sniffer dogs.

-- Kevin O'Flynn

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