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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Luzhkov Moves Against Underpass Kiosks

Shock waves from the August blast in a Pushkin Square underpass have finally hit retailers.

Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov has ordered a limitation in the range of goods that can be sold in the capital’s pedestrian underground walkways.

Clothes and footwear have been banned, as have perfumes and cosmetics containing alcohol, or combustible chemicals and aerosols.

City Hall says that underpasses lack the facilities for inspecting clothes while aerosols and spirit-based goods are fire hazards.

The telecommunications and mass media committee has managed to keep newspapers and magazines off the banned list. Earlier this year, City Hall said it would ban the selling of newspapers and magazines in the tunnels, arguing that "they burn well."

The sale of audio and video goods are also still permitted; until recently the city government had regarded them as a fire risk.

The internal affairs department has been instructed to "organize a citywide liquidation of unsanctioned trade" within a month. If the police department goes along with Luzhkov’s suggestion — the mayor does not have the right to instruct a law enforcement body — then they must inform City Hall of the results before the new year.

City Hall launched its campaign against underground trading immediately after the Pushkin Square explosion, which killed 13 people and injured more than 100.

"The Pushkinskaya explosion toughened our resolve to bring street retail into a more respectable state. The grave events have sobered us and forced us to change the rules of the game. We must regulate the range of goods being sold and protect the consumers," said the deputy head of the city’s consumer market and services department, Svetlana Korolyova.

There are a total of 4,500 kiosks in Moscow, with combined sales of $1.4 billion annually, or 7 percent of Moscow’s total retail sales. Of this, 3 percent comes from kiosks in metro stations and underpasses.

The first instruction was signed by Luzhkov at the end of September. The document forbade trading goods in underpasses that were included on a federal list of goods that require special storage and sale conditions. This category covered the majority of consumer goods. In the month after the instruction was signed a broad survey was conducted in the capital’s underpasses. The current City Hall instruction was based on the results.

"If we look at this question in terms of the future of these goods — clothes, underwear, footwear — then they will have to be moved from markets and underpasses into shops," said Valery Muratov, president of the Farmtekstorg underwear wholesalers. The company’s sales have fallen by 20 percent to 25 percent, he said.

"There’s no need to make a customer’s decision for him. When they stop shopping in underpasses, we’ll leave of our own accord," said Sergei Enin, head of retail with the Panintern company.

Panintern is gradually moving out of the underpasses, said Enin. Now only 10 percent to 15 percent of sales come from underpass stores — about half the level of two months ago.

As promised, perfume kiosks have been hit hard.

"The manufacturers and official cosmetics distributors are very unlikely to suffer from this. The goods sold in underpasses are generally from the ‘shadow’ economy, which only harms the legal market," said Vladimir Salev executive director of the Russian perfumes and cosmetics association.