Interview to the Right to Know programme on the TV-Centre channel

07 September 2014

Sergei Minayev: Good evening. I am Sergei Minayev, and this is the Right to Know on TV Centre. I would like to begin by wishing all Muscovites a good City Day. And of course, today we couldn’t invite anyone else on the show but Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin. Mr Sobyanin, thank you for finding time for our programme in your tight schedule, thank you for coming, we appreciate this. I would like to go straight to the main topic — the Moscow Duma election. What do the polls suggest, what do you think the turnout will be?

Sergei Sobyanin: As the last (mayoral — transl.) election, which was absolutely transparent and fair, has shown, public opinion studies are faulty. Social scientists can explain what happened but, as it turned out, not predict what will. So the real live events a week from now will show us the turnout and the results. But I hope that Muscovites will take active interest and go to their voting stations.

Sergei Minayev: Last year’s election sparked huge public interest, and unsurprisingly so, since it was mayoral. What is the public response today? Are Muscovites willing to learn more about the candidates and their programmes?

Sergei Sobyanin: In many ways, it naturally depends on Muscovites. The city has done what it could to help our residents get to know the Duma candidates better. First, we have held citywide primaries open, unlike before, to parties other than United Russia. The primaries were not held by this party, but by the My Moscow public organisation, and people could see their candidates and try their hand at the business. It was at this stage that the candidates registered and began canvassing, calling for people to vote in the primaries. It was like real elections, and candidates had their first go at it. Moscow had never seen primaries of this scale before. This was my first point. Secondly, although we are not obliged to give air time to candidates, everyone who wanted to bring their message home to their voters could do so during the debates at the Moscow 24 TV channel or on Moscow radio. This is a very positive thing, because despite the fact that candidates stand for election in particular districts, these are the size of large towns with tens of thousands of residents.

Sergei Minayev: Absolutely.

Sergei Sobyanin: And it is at times difficult to bring your message home to this many people. Thirdly, candidates, as far as I know, are very active in their districts, meeting people...

Sergei Minayev: In my experience, these are the first elections where candidates leave no Moscow courtyard out of their attention: They go there, they talk to voters.

Sergei Sobyanin: And do you know why this is happening?

Sergei Minayev: You made them do it?

Sergei Sobyanin: No. We now have a different electoral system. We have cancelled the proportional system, and these elections will be hundred percent majority elections. What does this mean? This means you can no longer hide behind a big name, be it that of the Mayor, or that of Zhirinovsky (leader of the Liberal Democratic Party — transl.) or that of Zyuganov (leader of the Communist Party — transl.). Now you’re one on one with your voters. How you prove yourself, how you show that you’re competent and needed — people will treat you accordingly. So now candidates are very motivated to come in contact with their voters and tell them about their programmes. Instead of delivering speeches from a high rostrum, they come to talk to real voters, real people. I think this will lead to higher name recognition and to higher responsibility vested in the candidates once they are elected than if they stand in a party ticket election.

Sergei Minayev: Mr Remchukov, you were one of the initiators of the primaries. Was the experiment successful, in your opinion?

Konstantin Remchukov: Yes, of course, I believe it was. What I liked most about the experiment was that there were no limitations for people who want to be engaged in politics. In fact, this experiment extended the election campaign by three months, because those who took part in the primaries worked on their campaigns in April, May and early June. They visited their electoral districts, met with local residents and learned about their concerns. When we were planning the My Moscow project, we discussed the fact that, since Moscow is such a big city, people’s concerns in each district may be different. In one district, it’s traffic jams, in another it’s utility issues, in a third one, immigrants, or a lack of street lamps on the way from the metro. Our goal was to identify all these concerns in every area. So, our initiative was quite successful. Over 280,000 people took part in it, they came to vote in person, and this is a huge number for a pubic initiative. But as for the elections themselves, I have a question for you, Mr Sobyanin. The fact is, some candidates who are associated with the opposition were not allowed to take part in the election. Do you think that the signature limit is necessary in such an advanced city as Moscow, as people show a high level of rationality in evaluating candidates? The primaries have shown that one of the opposition candidates in one of the central districts (I won’t give her name)collected 363 votes, while not being restricted in terms of access and election campaigning.

Sergei Minayev: But why? Weren’t people interested?

Konstantin Remchukov: No, this means that it’s one thing to be popular, or to think that you are popular, and it’s another thing to be unable to give a concrete answer to what you are going to do if you are elected. Another issue is that many have tried to turn the Moscow elections into a political issue, and claimed that their agenda was of federal importance. Well, you’re welcome to think so, but you can’t make Muscovites think so. Experience has shown that when a candidate addresses a prospective voter by saying, “My agenda is of federal importance,” the voter then replies, “Listen, how can I fix this issue with the building entrance?” The candidate gets disappointed and is no longer interested in speaking with the voter, and leaves. So, you may think that you are solving issues of federal importance, but in fact, Moscow elections are local elections, above all. I often speak with people from the Civic Chamber, Alexei Venediktov, for example, who was dealing with this issue in his commission. They say there is no political pressure now, there are so many observers who are registering everything .

Sergei Minayev: Yes, your question is clear.

Sergei Sobyanin: Moscow really is a politically advanced city, and Muscovites can see for themselves what a candidate is like when they come to the polling station. But nevertheless, when a ballot paper has five names on it, it is easy, but when there are 45... it is impossible. Therefore, some preliminary selection must take place, and if a candidate is unable to collect enough signatures, then this proves to be a good filter. This filter is not administrative, it is made up of the people themselves, who say, “Okay, do what you must, but I will not vote for you.” And if a candidate fails to collect this minimum number of signatures, then he will have difficulties collecting votes as well. This is not a limitation, but a natural selection, a stage which a candidate has to pass. This is a huge part of the election campaign, to convince people to give their signature. I could have refused to collect 80,000 signatures, I could have simply represent the party, everyone knows I belong to United Russia, and I am a member of the Supreme Council, I have nothing to conceal. But instead, I made a huge election campaign and I don’t regret that. This is hard, but it gives you a head start, because you are already talking to people and they promise you certain support.

Sergei Minayev: Mr Sobyanin, speaking of election campaigning, is it true that this year we will not see invitations to take part in the elections, complete with the address of a local polling station, pinned to notice boards?

Sergei Sobyain: We’ll do it in a different way. This will be the first time in the history of election campaigns that I will personally address each Muscovite. We will send electronic messages to those whose e-mail addresses and phone numbers we have — these are mainly Muscovites who contact us via the Active Citizen website or the state services website. If we do not have these contact details, we will send a written invitation with the address of a local polling station where people can go to vote.

Sergei Minayev: So, this is the first targeted programme allowing the Mayor to personally address each Muscovite?

Sergei Sobyain: Absolutely. . . We do not want these notices to be strewn about entrance halls and then swept away and forgotten. Each person will be sent an invitation and will know the address of a local polling station.

Sergei Minayev: You mentioned the state services website. Moscow — now I speak as a person who has lived in this city for 39 years — is becoming interactive for the first time ever. Today, lots of things can be done through the internet. Some people say that the state services website has largely a young audience, while senior citizens are continuing to go to their local social security offices. How, in your view, is the programme working?

Sergei Sobyain: There are things that are changing the city, such as parks that make it greener or roads, road overpasses and interchanges. There are also less conspicuous things that cannot be seen with the naked eye but they have an even more radical impact on the relationship between the authorities and the people. Take, for example, the state services website, which provides services to 3.5 million Muscovites, that is, almost all Moscow families. Every day about 100,000 Muscovites visit the website to access state services. That’s a lot of people, who earlier, when electronic services were unavailable, had to go to building maintenance offices, childcare centres or schools, creating long queues. At the same time, the authorities were not receiving information about what was happening in reality. For example, in the absence of reliable information on school enrolment, we believed that schools in the city were overcrowded, and it was impossible to enroll there.

Sergei Minayev: Such a myth does exist.

Sergei Sobyain: So, if we build another 10 schools nearby, everything will be fine. The introduction of an electronic queue that allows people to enroll their children in school without leaving home has shown that the situation is the reverse. Two-thirds of schools are short of their full capacity and some schools do not even have enough pupils to make up the first form. But people have had it drilled into them that it was impossible to enroll their children in school without kowtowing to the headmaster. Of course, the changes we are talking about are revolutionary.

Sergei Minayev: In addition to state services, you have created intergrated government service centres. I went to one such centre in the Mozhaisky District. Two things surprised me. First, where did you get the people who work there? This is an altogether new type of clerk. Previously, at government agencies — let’s be honest — you met people who had grown tired of their work. They did not want to see you, they were tired of you as soon as they saw you. At integrated government service centres, service standards are absolutely different. They are like those at Aeroflot and in the banking sector. Where did you recruit this staff?

Sergei Sobyain: As a matter of fact, our approach is typical of the private services sector, because our task was not just to make personnel arrangements, allocate funds that are provided for in the budget and forget the whole story. Should this be the case, we might not have done anything at all, because all posts are already occupied as it is, and officials are sitting in their offices at various addresses behind closed doors. Nobody, except the visitor and the official, knew what was happening there, and what happened there was not always right. When we were establishing and investing in this huge public structure, where nobody can hide behind a metal door or a screen, where everything is transparent and clear and where 95 percent of all conceivable services are available at a one-stop-shop type of service, we wanted not only to create a new infrastructure, but also to improve the image and style of work of an official, as well as the relationship between the official and the visitor. Visitors are not petitioners; rather they are the central figures, and they are always right. We selected people with good communication skills.

Sergei Minayev: Did they undergo psychological tests?

Sergei Sobyain: Yes, they did. They have undergone psychological tests and appropriate training to learn how to focus on customers — rather than vice versa — in order to meet public expectations. Thanks to the Active Citizen website and crowd-sourcing aimed at improving the level of service at integrated government service centres, we have created a platform for the development of performance standards for the new type of official. Today, we are discussing these standards to define requirements for officials, so they know what is expected of them. This is being done to promote the official’s new image.

Sergei Minayev: Mr Sobyanin, I dare ask you as a manager a purely psychological question. When you encountered [former Mayor] Luzhkov’s team here, how did you break up that bureaucratic gang? Did you gather them all one fine day and say: “That’s all over. You’re sacked”? Or did you say: “You’ll work according to new rules now,” to which they replied: “Okay”?

Sergei Sobyanin: Two-thirds of the highest city officials quit because, much to my regret, it was no use explaining them the new rules — they were deaf to everything. I invited everyone, explained the new rules of the game and said that I would not make anyone stay in their job. If they could not accept the new way of doing things, then they would best look for vacancies elsewhere.

This is the first thing. And second, at least half of the ability to achieve success depends on the top manager. His own attitudes towards the public, his goals and priorities certainly define the conduct of personnel. I don’t mean that they should all fall in line and sing in unison. Nothing of the kind! Moscow is a huge city with several thousand managerial staff, each with his or her own opinions, concepts and work style. The right personnel placement is not sufficient to get the machinery to work. What we need is new managerial systems. Otherwise, you should give up the idea of contemporary municipal management.

If we have not established Government services websites, millions of applicants would have turned to public servants, of whom no one would have moved a finger for them, and we would still have the mess that we’ve had before. Nothing would have changed if not for the Our City portal. Anyone can file a complaint there and receive an answer within a guaranteed eight days. Decisions regarding 80 percent of these complaints are made over the same eight days. If not for this portal, we would not see any improvement even if I were sacking district bosses a dozen per day.

Sergei Minayev: Right, people do whatever they want if they have no precise system for their job.

Sergei Sobyanin: Smooth work is impossible without a system.

Sergei Minayev: Mr Kupriyanov, you have the SMS Portal rubric on your website that Muscovites use to secure information about the work of all municipal services. Do you maintain statistical records regarding the applications and their themes?

Alexander Kupriyanov: We certainly do. We urgently respond to applications that pose practical problems and specify the people and offices involved. Our service is a type of city control. We immediately address the departments and district offices concerned. We are definitely slower than television reporters, but we will answer all of the applications the same day anyway, although many of them pose problems that cannot be solved in a day.

We deal with problems that might appear very simple, but they do matter to people — whether it’s a leaking tap, house entrance lighting, or one of the major issues that you have asked us about, such as public activism and adapting to the rapidly changing environment. One question that we haven’t answered yet concerns our topic specifically: “The authorities are so active...”

Sergei Minayev: You catwo eloquent figures. The city inspection of motorways, courtyards, street lighting and other such essential facilities employs 600 people, while public supervisors who regularly contribute to the Our City portal number 350,000. It’s possible to get 600 public officers out of the way — some might be bribed, n ask this question now.

Alexander Kupriyanov: This message is from a highly active individual who addresses us regularly — it is a pity that I forgot his name. “What do members of the public contribute to urban management? They pinpoint certain things, file complaints, or demonstrate that they do care, but is their involvement felt at the top? Do the authorities receive any assistance from the public?”

Sergei Sobyanin: Here are others intimidated, and others still might be too lazy to visit a problematic area. But there is no way to bribe, scare or otherwise subdue 350,000 people who have no direct contacts at all with the authorities — they just phone in and supply information. There is no way to swindle them either. If you make a false report about improvements or place a fake photo on the website, public activists can check it anytime and report on you. Officials are heavily reprimanded or even dismissed for such things. So it’s quite a different system of supervision. I thank those hundreds of thousands Muscovites who take part in upgrading the city.

Sergei Minayev: After a short advertising break, we will discuss one of Moscow’s burning problems — traffic jams, car parking and fly-overs.

Sergei Minayev: This is Sergei Minayev, TV Centre. The Right to Know programme is on. We are continuing our talk with Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin.

Mr Mayor, some of Moscow’s problems are national in scope. Russia has recently embargoed certain foodstuffs to retaliate against the sanctions. Rumours of impending undernourishment have flooded Moscow immediately. It’s surely idiotic to be afraid of starvation if prosciutto ham or Parmesan cheese vanishes from shops. Very few people will notice it — a dozen or two Facebook users. Anyway, ordinary people fear that vegetables, salt and other staple food prices will skyrocket. What’s the real situation in Moscow?

Sergei Sobyanin: I think that we would have had a formidable problem in a similar situation some 25 years ago, with the bulky governmental machine slowly adjusting to the situation. There would have been food problems, really. But now, Russia is member of the free market, even with an embargo concerning several countries. We have thousands of importers and retailers. It’s impossible to lock them all out. Traders can switch to other wholesalers anytime, so I don’t think that we are in for food shortages.

There are some predicaments now, but I think that things will become smooth over the next several months. To reassure our consumers, the Moscow authorities have offered purchasing contracts to farmers from other parts of Russia, as well as Belarus, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. Talks are underway with Turkish foodstuff suppliers. Several dozen new regional fairs have opened in Moscow, with rather an impressive choice of goods. We have also sped up the establishment of a new agri-cluster. It will provide a new logistics pattern bypassing intermediaries. Producers will come straight to retailers and small wholesalers. The arrangement promises a vast assortment of foodstuffs to stalls and corner shops.

Sergei Minayev: Is it, roughly speaking, the equivalent of the Soviet-era fruit and vegetable depots?

Sergei Sobyanin: The system is entirely different. We are moving far away from the fruit-and-veg depots, whose directors reigned over the stock that they received and would make 200 per cent profits by bringing retailers to their knees, letting some in and keeping others away. Our system is entirely different. Free entry, free access to the ramps where vegetable lorries are docked to one side, while customers come at their ease from the other side to choose suitable goods at the most affordable prices. The asking prices are displayed on a screen in order to eliminate any collusion. Money is turned into commodity in a civilised way and small wholesale lots are taken away to retail shops. A different ideology altogether.

Sergei Minayev: You mentioned 200 per cent profits, Mr Sobyanin. How can we control retailers, bearing in mind that the embargo is a perfect pretext for boosting prices and making extra profits?

Sergei Sobyanin: As far as retail shops and networks are concerned, competition among them is too high for someone to afford increasing prices for fear of losing customers. Wholesale, however, is the area that we must watch closely to prevent monopolistic trends from forcing customers through a needle’s eye. This used to be Moscow’s major problem. It was not retail but wholesale that lacked civilised shopping grounds where individual buyers, small wholesalers, shop owners and restaurateurs could freely purchase the produce that they needed. There were no such grounds in Moscow. Now, one such area has been established, but in my opinion this is not sufficient. We need another three or four agri-clusters to radically transform Moscow’s wholesale market.

Sergei Minayev: Summing it all up, the main issue is that Moscow is under no threat of food shortages.

Sergei Sobyanin: We can already take this for a fact.

Sergei Minayev: Mr Gusman, recent opinion polls showed that most Russians had nothing against the introduction of an embargo with regard to certain countries. In your expert view, is any disappointment to be felt now, or have people discussed it for a couple of days and calmly forgotten all about it?

Mikhail Gusman: Judging from Muscovites’ peaceful and confident behaviour, as no one is queuing up in shops or emptying shelves, I think that the general attitude is calm. By the way, I have a question for Mr Sobyanin concerning Muscovites’ character. This is a festive day, Mr Sobyanin, and in my hand I have a newspaper article, a genuine article from the Bakinskiy Rabochiy (Baku Worker) newspaper dated 1 November 1941. The article, called Moscow These Days, was signed by Military Medic Dr Gusman, my father, who served as the chief physician at a frontline hospital near Moscow. He went into town for medical supplies and was stunned by Moscow’s lifestyle in those hard days, people flocking to theatres and ignoring air raids, with the metro running as usual. It was November 1941. Now, bearing in mind my father’s account of Muscovites’ steadfast and optimistic character, I would like to ask you on this festive day — and next year we will celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Great Victory — as the Mayor and a non-Muscovite by birth, what is your opinion of the modern Muscovite’s character? Have Moscow residents lost some of their optimism and confidence? And, on behalf of City Hall, what is being done to strengthen those traditional traits of their character?

Sergei Sobyanin: Nothing needs to be done in this respect, Mr Gusman, as Muscovites do have a character of their own, a special drive, dynamic and aggressive will in the better sense of the word. Demanding as they are towards themselves and those in power, they would never let the authorities fall asleep. This is what keeps the city alert and moving ahead.

Sergei Minayev: Mr Sobyanin, I have a question regarding one of the most important issues on the minds of Moscow residents — the roads. You are now running 85 road building projects. First, I wonder how you manage to keep everything under control. Second, this concerns my personal impression as a busy driver. I have the feeling that driving has become easier. Do you have any figures to this effect?

Sergei Sobyanin: Two years ago, and even last year, few believed that Moscow’s road problems could be solved. It would have been easy for me to agree, saying: “Yes, indeed, such is the way this city was built. We have four times fewer roads than London, while the density of our population is double per square kilometre. Although most offices crowd the city centre, their employees live in remote residential areas, and commuter traffic is twice that of any other European city. There is no way to resolve such a city’s transport problems.” And everyone would say: “Yes, it seems so. There is nothing we can do...”

Sergei Minayev: Everyone concerned was prepared to accept such a statement. Moreover, they all said: “Yes, our roads are outdated. They never intended to cope with such an intense city development. Let’s drop the subject.”

Sergei Sobyanin: However, we took a different way. We agreed that the problem was among the most complex in the world as per urban traffic development, but decided to do our utmost to solve it and clearly defined how. Apart from road building, we must certainly, above all, develop public transport, both above and under ground, as well as railways. Also, parking issues need to be sorted out. Thus, the knot will gradually be undone. Gradually, not at once, things will get better. What we have seen so far is just the first greenshoots that, regardless, inspire optimism and tell us that we are moving in the right direction. Indeed, in the years to come, we are likely to overcome the problem. And this is worth a great deal.

Sergei Minayev: Mr Sobyanin, those responsible for Moscow’s road map and construction — what education did they receive or are they receiving? Where did they get their experience?

Sergei Sobyanin: We don’t move forward entirely on our own, we look at the clear experience of other cities. All major metropolises without exception have faced the same problems. But they did so 30 or 40 years ago, while we, in the modern world, are beginning to learn the basics that other cities have already learnt. That’s why we draw from world experience, we invite experts and consultants, we travel to other cities, and the first thing we look at is the transport system, the road traffic system, the way they solve similar problems.

Sergei Minayev: Paid parking in Moscow has sparked huge debate. If you recall, there were people calling for there to be exclusively paid parking in all of the city centre. Now people write in Facebook : Traffic has become lighter, but finding a parking space is impossible, we drive in circles three or four times before can get a spot in a paid lot. There are not enough paid parking lots. What will be done to resolve this issue? What are the statistics? Maybe, we’re just hard to please? We used to sit in traffic jams, and now we complain about not being able to find parking.

Sergei Sobyanin: It’s part truth, part untruth. It’s true that the number of people driving into the centre and leaving their cars there has dropped 23 percent.

Sergei Minayev: And what alternative transport do people use? Do they use public transport?

Sergei Sobyanin: Yes. The traffic speed has slightly increased and the traffic flow has become more orderly. There are fewer cars parked on the pavement, and more pedestrian space. As for the parking turnover and availability, while it’s true that there are areas that are overcrowded, most parking lots are 70 percent, if not 60 percent full. In the past one parking space could be occupied by one car, as a driver could park his car and leave it for the day and even into the night, and nothing happened. Now the parking turnover has recently increased four times. In other words, one spot can accommodate four cars instead of one during the same time period.

Sergei Minayev: So people care about their money?

Sergei Sobyanin: Of course, so the situation has improved for pedestrians, for those who pass through the centre and for those who park their cars.

Sergei Minayev: There was a suggestion to limit the speed limit within the Boulevard Ring to 40 km per hour. Why wasn’t that idea given the go-ahead? There was serious debate that it would make traffic safer and so on. Why was it given up?

Sergei Sobyanin: Opinions differ. Some experts believe this measure will lead to a lower accident rate and smoother traffic flow, while the traffic speed will not really change. Others say that this is wrong, and lowering the speed limit will make the traffic flow, which is already difficult, even worse. That’s why we decided to ask our residents: What would you like us to do? What is your opinion? Over 50 percent replied that the speed limit is fine, and we should leave it the way it is. However, a quarter said is should be decreased. Still, we sided with the majority and left the speed limit unchanged.

Sergei Sobyanin: Decisions like these are likely to divide Russia into isolated fiefdoms. The Moscow Region, Kaluga, Tula and other regions — each of them have good reasons for making financial claims. What about the millions — millions! — of Muscovites who go to their dachas? Some of them stay there for the whole summer. All of them need water, food, electricity and good roads.

Roman Babayan: Roads leading to the Moscow Region...

Sergei Minayev: So you want to turn the Moscow Region into a fiefdom?

Roman Babayan: Look, we travel to various cities around the world...

Sergei Sobyanin: Which cities? Give us the names. Which cities deny entry to vehicles from other towns? I’ll tell you, to spare you the effort. You’re talking about Beijing, but we do not live in China, our country is different, so we need to look for different solutions to this problem. I agree in principle that this would be great, but in our case this option is unrealistic — otherwise this would be an altogether different country with different rules. We live in Russia, which is a unified whole with everything, including the economy and taxes, being closely intertwined. Incidentally, Moscow is a major transport hub, through which 60 percent of cargo in Russia passes. I fully agree that we need to improve logistics services.

As for park-and-ride facilities, previously Moscow did not have any to speak of. Over the past years we have created over a million parking lots — not park-and-ride but simply parking lots off roads and in courtyards. This is a huge number. In addition, we have created 21 park-and-ride facilities, which are run in keeping with the principles you were talking about. If you have a ticket for two trips on the metro, you will not have to pay for parking. But you know what happened to the areas around the metro stations. It’s not difficult to find out — just go there and have a look. These areas are built up with shopping centres, offices and blocks of flats. There is no available space there; nonetheless, we will be looking for opportunities to build park-and-ride facilities and transport hubs with multi-tier parking lots close to metro stations and introduce the scheme you were talking about. People should be able to leave their cars and use public transport to get to the city centre.

Sergei Minayev: We’ll be back in a few minutes.

Sergei Minayev: Welcome back to Right to Know on the TV Centre channel. Our guest today is Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin. My colleague Roman Babayan mentioned renovations of buildings’ facades, a topic that a week ago caused one of the most heated debates in the blogosphere that I remember. The debate focused on the illegal demolition of the façade of the Proshin House. How could this happen and how will the developer be punished? People need to know given the public outcry it sparked in Moscow.

Sergei Sobyanin: Of course, the public response to such incidents is always very strong and rightly so. Regretfully, this house is not a (historical) monument and has never had this status; nonetheless, the façade of this building had its own history and a distinctive design, so at our public council meeting we decided to preserve it. The appropriate documents were issued to the developer. He signed them but started building illegally anyway, and, in his words, the wall collapsed on its own.

Sergei Minayev: He clearly pulled it down.

Sergei Sobyanin: Few believe him. Generally, people say that he tore it down, and that it was uncivilised. As a result, we will take him to court to make him pay a fine. But the heaviest penalty for him is that we have revoked his construction permit and suggested creating a park there.

Sergei Minayev: Does he own the land?

Sergei Sobyanin: He owns the land and he owned the building, but now there is no building and the construction permit has been revoked, so he is not allowed to engage in construction on the scale specified in this document. If he wants to get back to his construction business — even on the scale provided for in this permit, to say nothing of more ambitious construction projects, of which he was dreaming at one time — he will have to go through the hassle of petitioning the court while his chances of winning the case are negligible. Of course, the investor will not simply lose one or two million roubles in fines — it will be tens of millions of dollars.

Sergei Minayev: I’ve clarified one detail: the fine to be imposed by the court may amount to about five million roubles, the biggest by European standards for the similar breach of contract.

Sergei Sobyanin: I would like to repeat that the losses he is likely to incur as the owner of the building that once existed — he bought the building and relocated its former residents to new flats — are much higher than a two or five million rouble fine.

Sergei Minayev: But a fine like that is nothing to people in the construction business.

Sergei Sobyanin: His actual losses are likely to be much higher. Why did he do this? It’s hard to understand what he could have been thinking. I can only put it down to negligence and boorishness.

Sergei Minayev: Does this company have permits for other renovation projects in Moscow which it obtained in the same way?

Sergei Sobyanin: As far as I know, there is another small-scale project, but now, of course, we will keep a close eye on it.

Sergei Minayev: It will be on your radar.

Sergei Sobyanin: The blogosphere explodes when such cases come to light, and they are really outrageous. We must take a tough stance. However, we should keep in mind what is happening in Moscow now. Half a billion dollars has been invested in the preservation, renovation and restoration of monuments. I guarantee that no other city in the world has seen this scale of investment in the restoration of its historical heritage.

That is not only public money, or taxpayer money — half of this amount comes from private investors who own these buildings. We should not forget about the hundreds of owners who are investing in and improving their properties and allowing public access to them, as we should distinguish between them and the idiots, pardon me, who commit these outrages. The overwhelming majority of investors don’t treat historical landmarks like this, and the situation with 99.9 percent of these monuments is just the opposite. Every year we not only renovate monuments but we also restore them.


Sergei Minayev: Correct me if I’m wrong, Mr Sobyanin, but I read somewhere that the restoration of about 300 monuments was begun this year for the first time and 50 of them have been fixed so far.

Sergei Sobyanin: Yes, that’s right. Active restoration work has been going on for more than a year now. For instance, in 2010 a mere 19 buildings were restored.

Sergei Minayev: An increase from 19 to 300.

Sergei Sobyanin: 300 were restored last year and another 300 are being restored this year. This is an enormous scale by any yardstick.

Mikhail Gusman: I’d like to add to what Mr Sobyanin said. Moscow should also be proud of its active cultural life. Moscow is indeed a global cultural capital. Revolutionary changes have taken place in Moscow parks and theatres in the past few years. To be honest, I’m very happy to see overcrowded book stores late in the evening. Book stores have become a new magnet for the younger generation.

I think more attention should be paid to libraries. I think they are in deplorable condition, especially because all cultural facilities in Moscow as in any other capital are concentrated in the centre and there are few cultural events around it. Maybe it would be good to open more book stores and libraries, which are themselves turning into cultural centres. Other European capitals — London and Paris for example — have round-the-clock book stores with simple little coffee bars that are always crowded with students and other young people, even at night. I think it makes sense to pay attention to this aspect of young people’s cultural life.

Sergei Minayev: Thank you.

Sergei Sobyanin: I couldn’t agree more with you, Mr Gusman. Indeed, Moscow libraries should be given a new lease of life. We have examples of old libraries with old resources turning into new cultural centres where people come to work on the computer, read a book and have a cup of coffee. We are opening such centres. They are the future of libraries. Of course, libraries should not be closed or have only one librarian who can only check out and check in books. Readers don’t need libraries like that anymore. We must upgrade libraries. We don’t trail any large city in terms of the number of libraries, but we must give them a new lease of life.

Sergei Minayev: Mr Kupriyanov, go ahead please.

Alexander Kupriyanov: Mr Sobyanin, you’ve partially answered a question that I was going to ask when you said Moscow is a melting pot for money, events, people and so on. Muscovites are still worried about migration and guest workers. Do you think Moscow could do without them?

Sergei Minayev: Thank you.

Sergei Sobyanin: Probably it could, but in this case foreigners should be replaced with migrants from other regions, primarily near Moscow. However, to make it happen it is first necessary to change the economic incentives of employers. It is not enough to hunt down guest workers through the Federal Migration Service or the police, drag them out from wherever they are hiding and send them home. All this should be done. Order must be enforced. By the way, over 240,000 guest workers were deported during the first half of this year for violating administrative and migration laws and prohibited from returning. This cleaned up Moscow a bit.

But economic incentives are the main issue. Employers gain a lot more by hiring guest workers instead of people from Tula, Vladimir or Oryol. Why? Because employers do not pay any taxes or make any contributions to social, pension or medical funds when they hire guest workers and all these payments account for half of a person’s salaries or wages. Labour laws applying to guest workers must also be amended, all the more so since they work here illegally. These things must be changed. A new draft law has already been written on the President’s instructions. I hope it will be adopted this year and the Moscow authorities will be given the right to regulate the costs of guest workers’ arrival and their work under a license. By raising the cost of the work license and closely monitoring their stay here we’ll change the situation and give employers bigger incentives to hire Russian citizens.

Sergei Minayev: Mr Remchukov, go ahead please.

Konstantin Remchukov: Mr Sobyanin, a year ago I talked with you. I was bothering you with a question about the creative class. You gave me this look and said: “Kostya, we are competing with London, Paris and New York, not Ryazan and Ulyanovsk.” That was your answer, and now I’d like to ask about your plans on a major issue like environmental protection. Where are your plans for making Moscow more like New York — where it is possible to drink the tap water — London and Paris?

Sergei Sobyanin: We are not behind them on many metrics. We shouldn’t beat ourselves up about it. Things are not so bad in Moscow, especially considering that Moscow is the greenest city in the world or at least one of the greenest. However, transport continues to be a major headache. The more cars there are in traffic jams, the more carbon dioxide they emit, polluting the environment. But on the other hand, we are gradually phasing out old engines and raising the class of engines for public transport and lorries. We were the first in Russia to toughen restrictions on fuel grades at petrol stations. These measures are improving air quality in Moscow and improving the environment. We are also improving the environment by reducing congestion and the number of vehicles with high emissions. These processes are interconnected. So every rouble we invest in our transport strategy and in public transport is a rouble invested in environmental protection.

Sergei Minayev: Thank you very much for this programme, for coming here, Mr Sobyanin. Colleagues, thank you for helping me host this programme. I’d like to wish you and all of us, Muscovites, a happy holiday on City Day.

Sergei Sobyanin: Colleagues, friends, I’d also like to use this opportunity to wish you a happy holiday. Today is City Day, the day when our capital was born. We consider Moscow the best city on Earth and we must love it and care for it every day. Happy birthday Moscow! Happy holiday, Muscovites!

Sergei Sobyanin: Thank you, Sergei.

Sourse: The website of the Mayor and the Government of Moscow

See also
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Natalya Sergunina on why Moscow does not fear the crisis and what the city’s government is betting on
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Sergei Sobyanin’s interview with Moscow FM radio station
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Sergei Sobyanin’s interview with Govorit Moskva radio station
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Moscow Mayor’s commentary for TV Centre television
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Sobyanin interviewed for Vesti-Moskva on Rossiya-1
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