Putin intervenes over Moscow airport 'blockade'

1st July 2010, Comments 0 comments

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin Thursday stepped into a row over roadworks that paralysed access to a Moscow airport and saw the national flag carrier lose almost a million dollars in a day.

The massive roadworks on the main access road to Sheremetyevo Airport in the north of Moscow have already prompted huge tailbacks as hordes of Russians fly abroad for the summer break.

"People are complaining, you can't reach Sheremetyevo," Putin told Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov in televised comments.

"Please work with the Moscow authorities and undertake the necessary actions together to improve the situation," Putin told Ivanov.

The airport on Thursday recommended passengers to use its rail link instead of driving as car drivers spent four to five hours in jams.

National airline Aeroflot lost 700,000 euros (863,000 dollars) in a single day on Monday, deputy commercial director Andrei Kolymov told the parliament Thursday.

"1,300 people missed their planes. We returned them 75 percent of the ticket price," he said, the RIA Novosti news agency reported.

The head of Russia's traffic police, Viktor Kiryanov, joked of the situation that "the only thing to do is to get a small helicopter and take everyone by air," the Interfax news agency reported.

Passengers faced a "transport blockade," the general director of Sheremetyevo airport, Mikhail Vasilenko, complained in his Internet blog on Wednesday.

"Hundreds of people -- passengers and even pilots in recent days have missed their flights," Vasilenko wrote.

The transport ministry was "concerned at the situation" and planned a meeting later in the day to discuss the situation, a spokesman told the Echo of Moscow radio station.

Roadworks that started June 26 and will last till October 1 block four out of six lanes on the Leningradskoye Shosse highway, the only access road from Moscow.

Vasilenko accused the Moscow municipal authorities led by controversial mayor Yury Luzhkov of timing the roadworks to give an unfair boost to another city airport in which it is a major shareholder.

"Why did works that they could have calmly planned and carried out in spring or in autumn have to start right now, at the peak time for Sheremetyevo?" he said.

"I cannot explain the situation otherwise than that on July 3 they will start launching a new terminal at Vnukovo airport, which belongs to the Moscow city government."

Vasilenko said he contacted the Federal Anti-Monopoly Commission and deputy prime minister Ivanov said that the commission was already investigating the situation.

© 2010 AFP

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