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Slippery Sobyanin: Bruised Muscovites Lash Out Over Icy Streets

Muscovites have been slipping and falling at an alarming rate after a cold snap froze water that had flooded sidewalks when a spike in temperatures melted piles of snow.

Russians tend to be blase about bad weather, but Muscovites are angry at city authorities after a series of sharp temperature changes turned the center of the capital into an ice-clad danger zone.

Pedestrians have been slipping and falling at an alarming rate after a cold snap froze water that had flooded sidewalks when a spike in temperatures melted piles of snow.

Swamped by patients with injuries related to the snow and ice, emergency-room doctors have "had no time to wash plaster [from casts] off their hands."

Those less badly hurt are getting up, brushing themselves off, and blaming city authorities who they say failed to prevent ice from forming -- and then mishandled the consequences.
"We used to have knee-deep snow, now we have ankle-deep puddles," one user wrote on Instagram before the cold snap turned those puddles into ice. "And on [city-run TV channel] Moskva 24, important men report how 150,000 people are shoveling snow around the clock."

Much of the criticism focused on the mayor, Sergei Sobyanin, a Siberia-born ally of President Vladimir Putin who was steered into the job in 2010.
"Moscow. Center. Revolution square. Snow and garbage haven't been cleaned in two weeks," one Twitter user wrote. "Sobyanin! Get out!"

In 2011, Sobyanin launched a campaign to pave many sidewalks with shallow paving stones -- more like tiles -- in place of asphalt. Many Muscovites, including some speaking from painful experience, say the tiles are more prone to icing than asphalt.

"Sobyanin's street lights, by the way, shine bright, that's true. Their light helps to see the ice accumulated in between tiles in the shape of diamonds," Anna Narinskaya, a journalist from Moscow, wrote on Facebook. "Meaning, the water doesn't drain anywhere, but freezes and will continue to freeze over in the future."

Pyotr Shkumatov, coordinator of the "blue buckets" movement that arose in protest against officials abusing special road privileges, wrote on Facebook that he had spoken to a street cleaner who was shoveling clean asphalt but wouldn't touch the icy tiles. It was apparently an order.

"The bosses forbade cleaning the tiles with shovels or breaking the ice, so as not to damage them. And we were not given the [deicing] agent," Shkumatov quoted the worker as saying.

As is often the case, the anger is mixed with a more wry, lighthearted treatment of the inconvenience. One photo that became an Internet icon of Moscow winter floods -- before the deep freeze -- is dated January 29.

That photo was quickly altered to add Putin plying the floodwaters in a submersible or swimming them bare-chested -- plays on the macho-man stunts he has performed to burnish his image.

Others turned the water into lava, creating a fiery predicament for the pedestrians.

In a nod to the Soviet tradition of denying a problem exists but also announcing steps to tackle it, city officials said they spread deicing agents on the sidewalks -- and urged people to stay indoors.

"We ask pedestrians to be especially careful when walking in the city, we urge you not to go out without absolute necessity, because icy conditions remain," said Igor Pergamenshchik, spokesman for a Moscow deputy mayor.
The warning didn't stop this moonwalking Muscovite.

About This Blog

Using regional media and the reporting of Current Time TV's wide network of correspondents, Anna Shamanska will tell stories about people and society you are unlikely to read anywhere else.

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