Russian council mocked over ice claim


St Petersburg council has come under fire after claiming credit for clearing snow and ice that had just melted in the spring thaw.

Local resident Natalya Vakhlova wrote to the council back in January to say it was dangerous to reach her bus stop because of accumulated ice on the pavement.

She heard nothing until the first week of April, when the authorities proudly posted before-and-after photos.

“You can’t be serious??? A photo from 3 April (!!!) to show you dealt with the mounds of ice at the bus stop I complained about on 25 January!!!,” she tweeted to the council’s Our St Petersburg customer portal.

They city had to cope with an unusually severe winter with scarce funds, and Ms Vakhlova acknowledges that council workers did make fitful attempts to clear the ice.

“They turned up about ten days later and tried to do something, but they only had a go at the mounds around my bus stop, even though others nearby were also covered in ice,” she told the St Petersburg Fontanka news site.

‘Problem solved’

Two months passed, then Our St Petersburg proudly sent her its photo evidence, declaring “Problem solved”.

An unimpressed Natalya Vakhlova tweeted the photos, noting that “given it’s been well above freezing for some time now, it’s not hard to work out that the ice melted on its own.”

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Her story moved quickly from social media to the press and television, where sympathy for the problems that street cleaners faced over the severe winter was mixed with exasperation at their employer’s glib responses.

‘Beglov’s shovel’

Some commentators gleefully recalled the “Beglov’s Shovel” meme, an ironic tribute to city chief Alexander Beglov’s decree ordering 20 or so senior city officials to carry shovels inscribed with his name at all times to help clear the snow and ice.

Nonetheless, the city fathers appear unchastened.

Our St Petersburg has since sent out a similar response claiming success in the battle against the ice – this time to a complaint from 11 January, the Ekho Moskvy news site reports.

This prompted Fontanka to dig deeper. It seems Ms Vakhlova was not the first resident to receive a declaration of victory in April – about 30 others had the same dubious honour, and a few thousand more have yet to be dealt with.

‘Wait until June’

Council official Sergei Malinin told the site that the street cleaners simply hadn’t had time to take photographs while on the job, and acknowledged that sending victory reports with sunny pictures “could look like making fun of citizens”.

He said the council would try to do better, but one St Petersburger had a better idea.

“They should wait until June and declare all the problems solved in one go,” he told Fontanka.

Reporting by Adam Robinson and Martin Morgan

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