Accessibility links

Breaking News

Snowbound: 'Cold War' Threatens As Moscow Fights Back

A bulldozer shovels snow off Red Square as snow falls in Moscow on February 4.

The authorities in Moscow have pulled out all the stops to cope with the heaviest snowfall in decades, a storm that Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin has dubbed "the snowfall of the century."

In a public-relations blitz, city authorities are rolling out some impressive numbers to demonstrate their commitment. Some 70,000 municipal workers are clearing the snow and fallen trees. More than 15,000 snowplows and other vehicles have been mobilized.

The entire operation is being monitored by 140,000 cameras on the streets and another 100,000 in city courtyards, all feeding via the Global Navigation Satellite System (Glonass) to a command center set up at the Center for the Automatic Registration of Administrative Violations (TsAFAP), the mayor's office reported.

Hot lines for complaints about uncleared snow and other problems have been set up and publicized, while a portal called Nash Gorod (Our City) is available for online critiques.

TASS even published a helpful infographic advising Muscovites how to walk on snow-covered streets (hint: If carrying a package, don't try to catch it as you fall).

The Moscow regional authorities joined in, with the governor's press office revving up its Twitter account to tout the government's reaction.

Some 226 sites for dumping the snow have been created, authorities reported. Housing and Communal Services Minister Yevgeny Khromushkin told a meeting of the regional government that it would take at least a week to clear the snow although workers are on the job 24 hours a day.

Deputy Mayor Pyotr Biryukov, who is overseeing the mammoth task, says the city needs to clear away some 72 million cubic meters of snow in all, 1.2 million of which has already been liquidated. Snow must be cleared from the roofs of 17,000 buildings. More than 2,000 trees were brought down and need to be cleared.

Men clear snow off a roof in Moscow on February 4.
Men clear snow off a roof in Moscow on February 4.

The work, he told Interfax on February 6, continues around the clock.

And for some Muscovites, that is the rub. Not everyone, it seems, is happy having their sleep disrupted by the work on their street and around their home.

"Foodstuff is flying out of windows," Biryukov told Vesti FM radio. "They are throwing eggs at our workers. What's more, unhappy citizens are taking air pistols and beginning to shoot at our snowplows. We have seen quite a few such cases."

Biryukov warned that such cases would be turned over to the police.

Social media was snowed under with images of the sometimes gray and dowdy city decked out in fresh snow.

One Muscovite shared a time-lapse clip of rising snow levels during the whiteout.

Others posted photos and videos of snowbound cars and snarled traffic.

Journalist Leonid Ragozin chided Sobyanin for telling students to stay home from school. "I went to school and university in Moscow and never had that," he said on Twitter on February 4. "Snowfall is the most ridiculous excuse to miss school. Something is very wrong with this world."

  • 16x9 Image


    RFE/RL journalists report the news in 27 languages in 23 countries where a free press is banned by the government or not fully established. We provide what many people cannot get locally: uncensored news, responsible discussion, and open debate.