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A Country Ruled by Amoebas

Moscow road workers closed the bridge on Leningradskoye Shosse without any forewarning, leaving only one of three lanes open in one direction and backing up traffic to Sheremetyevo Airport for hours. As a result, thousands of passengers missed their flights and Aeroflot suffered losses of 700,000 euros ($877,000) on the first day alone.

This kind of stupidity happens only in Russia — or maybe Zimbabwe as well. Where else would the authorities effectively shut down the only road leading to an international airport? In Europe, they have to contend with volcanoes. In Moscow, we have Mayor Yury Luzhkov.

Sheremetyevo Airport director Mikhail Vasilenko said the problems were an underhanded attempt by Luzhkov to drive people away from using Sheremetyevo and toward the city’s other major airport, Vnukovo, which is opening a new terminal this month and happens to be owned by City Hall.

But Vasilenko’s claim is based on an implausible assumption — that an amoeba is capable of making a plan. It can’t. An amoeba can only eat.

The reaction of the authorities to the closure on Leningradskoye Shosse was even more telling than the actual traffic jams themselves.

“The most important thing,” said Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov, whom Prime Minister Vladimir Putin instructed to deal with the problem, “is why the work was started during the peak of the travel season. Why wasn’t the work conducted in the spring, fall or winter?”

So what Ivanov was saying was it is unacceptable to close the only road to Sheremetyevo in summer, but permissible in the winter or fall?

Ivanov obviously is unaware that Sheremetyevo is not the only airport in the world served by a road that passes over bridges and through interchanges.

The problem is not that the authorities blocked passage to an international airport and brought it to a standstill. The problem is that the crumbling bridge has been in need of repair since 2000, and nothing has been done since 2000 to build an alternate route to the airport. The other problem is that most of the land on both sides of Leningradskoye Shosse — territory that is desperately needed to expand the road — was sold a long time ago to commercial entities.

? City Hall did build a new interchange on Leningradskoye Shosse near the Sokol metro station, but it cost 60 billion rubles ($2 billion). That money was spent senselessly because the newly expanded six lanes in one direction on Leningradskoye Shosse at Sokol nevertheless turn into a huge bottleneck when, several kilometers north in the direction of Sheremetyevo, those six lanes turn into three when they pass over the ill-fated bridge.

Last week’s transportation debacle on Leningradskoye Shosse is a good example of the possible collapse of Putin’s Russia. Both underscore our leaders’ complete lack of strategic planning, their habit of stealing everything they can get away with, and the absurdity of Russian reality when the stupidity of a minor official can cause a complete disaster affecting millions of Russians.

Regardless of how loud Putin shakes his fist and cries, “Solve the problem!” he is helpless. The only thing to do now to prevent traffic jams is to deploy tanks alongside Leningradskoye Shosse and break up the traffic jams by bombing every other car to clear the way. But it would come as no surprise if the tanks end up being devoid of ammunition and fuel because both had already been sold on the black market.

Yulia Latynina hosts a political talk show on Ekho Moskvy radio.

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