$40M Earmarked for Post-Tank Road Work

ReutersMilitary vehicles rehearsing for Victory Day on Tverskaya Ulitsa on Tuesday.
City Hall has earmarked more than $40 million for road repairs in the wake of Friday's Victory Day parade, which will feature tanks and missiles for the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Mayor Yury Luzhkov signed off on a decree allocating 1.05 billion rubles, or $44.3 million, "for the elimination of damage after the holding of the parade."

A small portion — 9 million rubles — is allocated for work on sewers, water pipes and the city's drainage system, according to the decree, which was dated Monday and posted on the City Hall web site.

But the lion's share, more than 1 billion rubles, is earmarked for resurfacing roads.

If the display of military strength causes as much damage as such numbers suggest, it could mean a new parade-related headache for Muscovites, who have already had to battle traffic jams and street closures during rehearsals in the run-up to Victory Day.

But experts said Tuesday that the tanks and other heavy vehicles would not damage city streets, and one road engineer expressed surprise when told that City Hall had allocated so much money to road repairs after the parade.

"I imagine this must be some sort of mistake," said the engineer, who spoke under condition of anonymity because his company worked on contracts for the city government and he did not want to hurt his relationship with city officials.

The total of about 100 heavy vehicles participating in the parade would not be enough to cause serious damage to the roads, the engineer said.

Military officials have also promised that tank treads will be fitted with rubber pads to protect asphalt street surfaces and the historic cobblestones of Red Square.

Following a parade rehearsal earlier this week, Deputy Mayor Pyotr Biryukov said officials had inspected road surfaces and concluded that no serious damage had resulted from the procession of tanks, missiles and artillery pieces.

"We do not see any comprehensive damage," Biryukov told RIA-Novosti on Tuesday. "There have only been separate instances of road damage in the form of pressure on manhole covers and negligible damage to street surfaces."

It remained unclear Tuesday why Luzhkov had allocated the 1 billion rubles for repair to roads following the parade.

The City Hall press service referred questions to the housing and utilities department of the city government, which deals with road repairs. Reached on his mobile phone, a department spokesman referred a reporter to Biryukov's statement to RIA-Novosti, and then did not answer repeated follow-up calls.

One road expert said the allocation could be a standard budgetary maneuver and not a sign that tanks were expected to cause 1 billion rubles worth of damage to Moscow streets.

City Hall will not necessarily spend the entire 1 billion rubles on parade-related repairs, said Dmitry Nemchinov, director of RODOS, a noncommercial association of road builders and surveyors.

"After the parade, they will study the effects on the roads, and then it will become clear whether they need to spend the entire sum or just part of it," Nemchinov said by telephone. "Luzhkov simply approved a certain maximum limit."

Sergei Mitrokhin, a deputy in the Moscow City Duma from the liberal Yabloko party, criticized the decision to roll tanks and missiles through the city center.

"It could damage some of the most valuable architectural landmarks, like St. Basil's Cathedral and the Kremlin complex," Mitrokhin said Tuesday. "And our roads are not that great to begin with."

Monday's rehearsal left white trails along Tverskaya Ulitsa, but no other visible damage, Kommersant reported.

When told about the allocation of the 1 billion rubles, Mitrokhin said he had not heard about it previously and voiced suspicion that the funds would be misspent.

"For bureaucrats this is a profitable event, of course, but for Moscow it is very bad," he said. "It is not clear why we need to show off all this weaponry. It is just like a policeman brandishing his gun. Contemporary states don't need to show off their missiles and tanks."

Nemchinov, however, countered the suggestion that the money would end up lining officials' pockets.

"I don't see any criminal activity here," he said.

Most officials say the display of military hardware has a patriotic purpose.

Oleg Tolkachyov, Moscow's representative in the Federation Council, said in a Monday interview on Ekho Moskvy radio that Muscovites should be honored to host events like the Victory Day parade, despite the inconveniences.

"It is not that people have nowhere to hide," he said. "It is a great honor; it is Moscow's right — a right the city has earned as the country's capital."

Victory Day marks the surrender of Nazi Germany on May 9, 1945. Westerners call it V-E Day and celebrate it on May 8 because the surrender was signed near midnight in Germany, when it was already May 9 in Moscow.

In Soviet times, the holiday was traditionally celebrated with parades featuring tanks and missiles rolling through Red Square, which in Western eyes became an indelible image of the Cold War.

The tradition was suspended with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, but authorities revived it this year.

At the final rehearsal on Monday, the procession of vehicles included T-90 battle tanks, Smerch multiple-launch rocket systems, S-300 surface-to-air missiles, Iskander-M short-range ballistic missiles and Topol-M intercontinental ballistic missiles, RIA-Novosti reported.