Take a look at the video and picture above. It's of Bolshaya Dmitrovka street right in the heart of Moscow. The Kremlin and the Bolshoi Theatre are a few minutes walk away. It's full of tourists and Muscovites alike, either rushing to and from work or meandering while seeing the sights. Or at least they are trying to, because this street is now absolute chaos, and a potential death trap.
As one walks down it there is no special pavement for pedestrians. They have to pick their way through rubble, shunting lorries, swinging digger buckets and pneumatic drills. It's a wonder someone hasn't been maimed or killed. The workers seem to be in a terrible hurry. There has been no thought given to even the most basic public health and safety. It seems they are desperately trying to finish the pedestrianisation of the street as quickly as possible. Want to know why?
Ask Sergei Sobyanin, incumbent Moscow mayoral candidate. Opposing him is main contender Alexey Navalny then Sergey Mitrokhin, Ivan Melnikov, Nikolai Levichev and Mikhail Degtyaryov. But none of his opponents have the resources at their command that he does. He's chosen to start what Muscovites are derisively calling a 'Pharaoh's building programme'. I'm sure he hopes it will win him votes. But as you can see from the picture above it is frustrating and endangering the lives of people in the city. The timing of the projects are atrocious. Who would want to start works like this at the height of the tourist season, in the middle of summer? Sobyanin would, and presumably because he wants them finished before the election on the 8th of September. I've seen diggers blasting their horns or slamming on their brakes next to pedestrians trying desperately to navigate the last disappearing slivers of asphalt. Such is the abandonment of any pretence of health and safety in the rush to finish the new street that pedestrians on and around it are at very real risk of injury or death. That would be a perfect PR gift for the mayor's opponents.
All over Moscow roads are being torn up and re-laid at a newly furious pace. As screaming drivers are driven out of the their minds by traffic jams in places they would never normally be they shout that the roads were fine before. Why are they being done now and with such illogical haste? Why indeed.