Putin intervenes over Moscow airport traffic snarl

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Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin Thursday stepped into a row over roadworks that have paralysed access to a Moscow airport, costing the national flag carrier more than a million dollars.

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 sought to fly abroad for the summer break.

"People are complaining, you can't reach Sheremetyevo," Putin told Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov in televised comments, asking him to take steps to improve the situation work together with the Moscow authorities.

Roadworks that started June 26 and are planned to last till October 1 are blocking four out of six lanes on the Leningradskoye Shosse highway, the main access road from Moscow.

The airport on Thursday recommended that passengers 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 director Andrei Kalmykov told the parliament Thursday.

"The first day of the transport collapse, Monday, was just a killer for us. 1,300 people missed their planes," he said, the Interfax news agency reported.

Aeroflot is continuing to lose around 400,000 euros per day, Kalymkov said.

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.

The state prosecutors' office said Thursday it would investigate whether the roadworks broke laws on road safety, while the transport ministry planned a meeting later in the day to discuss the situation, a spokesman told Moscow's Echo radio station.

The general director of Sheremetyevo airport, Mikhail Vasilenko, complained in his Internet blog Wednesday that passengers faced a "transport blockade."

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."

The deputy head of the Federal Anti-Monopoly Service Anatoly Golomolzin said Thursday it would investigate at Vasilenko's request, calling the road closures "an inappropriate event in a normal economy," Interfax reported.

© 2010 AFP

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