Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Luzhkov Clears Out Markets For Games

Determined to show the world a squeaky clean Russian capital, the city is marching prostitutes and the homeless out of town and closing the colorful and chaotic markets around Moscow's stadiums during the World Youth Games, officials said Monday.

The striking coal miners camped out by the White House government building also are being asked to do their part and clear out for the games that open July 13.

Although Mayor Yury Luzhkov has given Moscow the spick-and-span treatment before -- for the 850th anniversary last year and the 50th anniversary of victory in World War II in 1995 -- the closing of markets is a new aspect of city beautification.

All markets that rent space at or near stadiums had to shut down July 1, and will stay closed until July 20, under a document signed by Luzhkov. This includes some of the biggest and most centrally located in the city, at the Luzhniki, Dynamo and CSKA stadiums.

City Hall also ordered the closure of the Gorbushka electronics and compact-disc market in Fili. The popular market was targeted because it is close to the Poklonnaya Gora war memorial, where cultural programs will be held during the games, an official in the mayor's office said.

Market administrators were invited to attend city government sessions to discuss the closure plans. "There was nobody who disapproved of this step," Tatyana Rastopova, an official in the city department overseeing consumer markets, said. "Everything was agreed upon."

The Izmailovo weekend arts and souvenir market will remain open, she said.

In standard Luzhkov style, prominent streets are being spiffed up for the games, which are bringing 7,500 young athletes from 136 countries to Moscow. Just a year after it was done for the grand 850th anniversary celebration, Tverskaya Ulitsa has been repaved, while the tunnels in central Moscow have been repainted.

City workers have been busy planting grass, sprucing up gardens, painting the Olympic flame on pavement and hanging thousands of colorful flags along bridges and roads. Moscow police also are stepping into high gear. A force of 32,000, including soldiers based in Moscow, will patrol the streets during the games, city police chief Nikolai Kulikov said Monday.

Despite previous assurances by Luzhkov that the city would not sweep out the homeless and prostitutes as it has at times in the past, Kulikov said his department was trying get them off the streets.

"We are constantly doing this job," he said during a news conference. "I think we are doing the right thing, because Moscow is the face of Russia and we ought to keep it clean."

Kulikov said the campaign against the homeless was justified because police statistics showed they committed 32 percent of all crime in Moscow.

The city streets, though, have become safer, he said. The bad news is that the number of burglaries has risen almost 35 percent in the last year and illegal drug sales have increased more than 50 percent, Kulikov said.

"My guess is that while we have increased street patrols, criminals have changed their tactics by breaking into the homes of Muscovites," the police chief said. "But we are trying to solve this problem by relocating some of our forces to housing complexes."

The protesting coal miners who have been camped out for weeks in central Moscow have been asked to leave during the games.

"We gave them a deadline of July 8 to leave the city on their own, but if they don't we won't use force to push them out," Kulikov said. "I just hope they use common sense and take their protest somewhere else."Police were investigating reported threats to the miners, Kulikov said, giving no details.

"We were told that miners were physically threatened to end their strike and leave the city," he said. "We have constant militia presence outside the miners' compound and we are keeping a close watch on them."