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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 May, 2003, 04:01 GMT 05:01 UK
Russian city's angry anniversary
A man putting up a banner
Across the city the finishing touches are being put in place
As St Petersburg prepares to celebrate its 300th birthday, many locals are in a far from festive mood.

In fact they are up in arms over the security measures surrounding the celebration and are complaining vociferously, according to a report on Moscow's Ren TV.

A telephone hot-line and a web-site called 300 Disasters of St Petersburg have been set up and have been inundated with complaints from St Petersburgers fed up with the pervasive measures. Some have threatened to take legal action against the authorities when the festivities end.

"Three hundred years, three hundred disasters," says TV correspondent Artem Vysotskiy.


"What is to be done if you fear the holiday people have been anticipating for such a long time? What are you supposed to do if you and your husband share your bedroom with a sniper? To whom do you turn for help if your precinct inspector asks for your passport every time you enter the block of flats you live in?," the correspondent asks.

Six months ago, residents were more optimistic

Web-site editor Aleksey Mogilenskiy says complaints include the sealing off of manholes, "allegedly to prevent terrorists from opening fire on vehicles from grenade launchers".

Construction workers were reportedly removed from a building site without any written notice, and a bank's security guards were forced to give up their weapons.

"Reports from correspondents on the web-site tell stories of how uncomfortable St Petersburg residents feel in their own city," the TV says.

It says getting the web-site registered was no easy task. "The unofficial slogan has proved true: speak well about the celebrations or say nothing at all."


The non-government Groza organization which set up the web site says both President Putin's representative and the governor of St Petersburg "are hostage to the situation" because they themselves are unaware of specific restrictions, which are in the hands of the Federal Security Service and other security agencies.

Those suffering damages as a result of the celebrations are being offered free advice from Groza lawyers, who are preparing their first court cases, the TV says.

Opinion polls indicate that only 25 per cent of residents believe that the tercentenary is a holiday worth celebrating. "Just six months ago, residents were more optimistic about the anniversary," the TV adds.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

BBC's St Petersburg tributes
23 Apr 03  |  TV and Radio

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