Moscow's new mayor wages war on street stalls
The new mayor of Moscow has hit the ground running with a breathless demolition campaign against the street stalls that dot the Russian capital, businesses and officials said on Tuesday.
Sergei Sobyanin, a little-known federal government figure was inaugurated to head Moscow last month after long-serving former mayor Yury Luzhkov was ruthlessly sacked by President Dmitry Medvedev in September.
His first order of business was examining Moscow's horrendous traffic jams, every Muscovite's pet hate.
But most attention has been given to his campaign against commerce stands in central Moscow, which are especially prevalent near metro stations and sell anything from kebabs to Bolshoi tickets.
They have been a feature of the Moscow cityscape since the early years after the collapse of the USSR in the early 1990s when private business had to rapidly fill the hole left by the end of the planned economy.
Some 650 booths will be demolished in the centre, a spokesman for the central prefecture told ITAR-TASS Tuesday.
"They have been erected illegally, they hinder pedestrian traffic, and spoil the cityscape," he said, referring to the mayor's decree.
Kroshka-Kartoshka, a chain selling baked potatoes at 300 Moscow locations, had to move about 30 booths, marketing director Mikhail Kudryavtsev told AFP. "They were all legal," he said.
The kiosk crackdown gained momentum after Sobyanin fired two Moscow officials who tolerated the stalls that crowded Belorussky train station and a monument in central Moscow.
Other district officials were quick to declare war against kiosks in their own districts to keep their posts. However many have taken a step too far by ordering to remove even legitimate businesses on long-term rental contracts.
"The mood of low-ranking city officials is close to panic, they don't even look at documents, their only thought is to stay in their jobs," said Kudryavtsev.
Sobyanin's cause celebre has also been on Yury Luzhkov's agenda several years ago. In 2007 he said there were 12,000 kiosks in the capital and vowed to remove them all within a year, but plans were changed by the economic crisis.
© 2010 AFP