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Moscow braces itself for surprise inspections

Yuri Sobyanin and Dmitri MedvedevMoscow mayor Sergei Sobyanin struck another blow for his stern headmaster image when he warned he would be dropping in unannounced at the weekend.

Saturday tours for the mayor are a long standing tradition in Moscow and something that prefects had plenty of time to prepare for under the days of old mayor Luzhkov.
[Original of image copyright (c) 2010. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036]

But uninvited arrivals are something new and potentially alarming for an administration that is still holding its breath for winds of change and a potential clean sweep out of the last regime's dead wood.

"Saturday tours will be completely different," a Moscow city source told Interfax. "At 1 pm Sobyanin will announce which administrative area he will inspect. In 40 minutes the prefect of the chosen area must be at City Hall and must travel round his area with the mayor in a special bus as he inspects the district."

Open for all

And an intimate bus trip with the mayor is not all that awaits the nervous prefect. A peer reviews scheme seems to be on its way, with the source adding that all other prefects would be invited to join the monitoring process.

"Thus, the mayor hopes to get rid of the so-called Potemkin villages and make sure that all the prefectures are properly prepared for winter," the source said.

Grigory Potemkin was a minister to Catherine the Great, who supposedly erected facades of idealised villages to impress the visiting empress. The tradition did not die out and previous Moscow Saturday visits by mayor were announced days or weeks in advance, resulting in a flurry of activity as officials scrambled to make their patch uncharacteristically fit for inspection, NewsMSK reported.


Even before the inspections took a turn for the uninspected the mayor was said to be unimpressed on his last such tour of the city.

Last weekend was his first and as he visited capital construction sites he noted considerable room for improvement. He lambasted self-built constructions as a "disgrace to Moscow," gzt.ru reported, and disparaged the financial hub-to-be and Luzhkov pet project Moskva-City. "In the opinion of Sergei Sobyanin the system of roads around the business centre needs considerable work," the City Hall press service told RIA Novosti.

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