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Cablegate: Government to Vladivostok: Have We Got a Bridge for You...

DE RUEHVK #0127/01 3250757
R 210757Z NOV 07




E.O. 12958: N/A


VLADIVOSTO 00000127 001.2 OF 002

1. (SBU) Summary. A major component of the federal
government's program to prepare Vladivostok to host the 2012
APEC summit is construction of a bridge to Russkiy Island, the
probable location of the APEC Summit. At a recent public
hearing, government officials and bridge designers reviewed
technical details. Some concerns remain including: how builders
will deal with unexploded ordinance on the island that has been
a naval installation for over a century; whether the Russian
Pacific Fleet has actually agreed to give up Russkiy; and
whether the bridge can be completed in time for the summit. The
issue became more urgent this week when President Putin called
on the Russian government to make up its mind where to hold the
summit. This baffled some Vladivostokers, given the President's
announcement this summer that Russkiy was the certain venue.
End summary.

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Bridge Plans Finalizing...

2. (U) This summer Vladivostok was tentatively chosen as the
site of the 2012 Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. In
order to prepare the city for the event, Moscow has pledged to
spend some 140 billion rubles (5.7 billion USD) on improving
infrastructure in and around the city. A major component of
this will reportedly be the construction of a bridge from
Vladivostok to Russkiy Island, just south of the city, where
many of the summit's events will likely be held. On November
19, a public hearing on the bridge was held in Vladivostok, to
which builders, city officials, environmental experts, NGO
representatives, public safety specialists, and ordinary city
residents were invited. Among those present were Oleg Shishov,
Director General of the construction company "Mostovik" from the
Siberian city of Omsk; Communist national Duma deputy Victor
Tyul'kin; and Tatyana Pashukova from the Russian national nature
protection institute.

3. (U) Shishov presented technical details concerning the
project. While several possible bridge locations have appeared
in local reporting, he said the span will extend across the
Bosfor Vostochniy Strait along the eastern side of the
Muraviev-Amurskiy peninsula upon which Vladivostok sits. The
bridge will be 3,150 meters long, 70 meters high, and 22 meters
wide, accommodating four lanes of traffic. Shishov said the
bridge will be built to survive 40-meter-per-second winds and
magnitude 7 earthquakes. A high-tech monitoring center will be
created to monitor and control bridge conditions, including
traffic flow and security. He said construction plans include
protection of all historical objects at the construction sites,
including Vladivostok's historic military fortifications.
Designers have not yet decided exactly what type of bridge will
be constructed, however. A final decision will reportedly be
made by December 14.

4. (U) Shishov said that the cost would likely rise over the
course of construction. At the moment plans are for the bridge
to be toll-free. Officials estimate that construction costs
will be recovered within 10 or 12 years through taxes gained
through tourist using the new concert hall, hotels, casinos, and
other attractions that are to be built on Russkiy Island.

5. (U) Together with the planned construction of a bridge over
Vladivostok's Zolotoy Rog bay, the Russkiy Island span aims to
significantly improve transport infrastructure, both in
Vladivostok and on the island. At the moment, there are just a
few dirt roads in poor condition on Russkiy. According to
Vladivostok city administration representative Sergey Fil', 10
kilometers of new paved roads will be constructed on the island,
including small bridges to cross local streams. Officials said
the bridge and road construction will use mainly local building
materials, and will provide up to 400 jobs for locals residents.
Officials said they will engage "well-qualified" workers from
neighboring countries to speed construction and reduce expenses.

...But Doubts Remain

6. (U) Regarding unexploded ordinance, according to recent news
reports, the area may be littered with potentially live
explosives, some of which date back to the Russo-Japanese War of
1905-07. Officials at the meeting did not respond to this
issue. Another significant concern, not raised at the hearing
but that has circulated in local reporting, is the relocation of
military units currently stationed on Russkiy, which remains in
the hands of the Ministry of Defense, and working out the
island's transfer to civilian authorities. Despite a transfer
order given by Putin to the Ministry of Defense in January of
this year, there has so far been no movement.

VLADIVOSTO 00000127 002.2 OF 002

7. (SBU) A final concern is whether the bridge can really be
built in time for the 2012 APEC summit. According to poloff's
May conversation with Leonid Vilchinskiy, who heads Primorye's
Roads Department, it would take a minimum of four and a half
years to build the bridge over the Bosfor Vostochniy. At the
time, Vilchinskiy assumed that construction would have begun
this summer. With a new start date of spring 2008, however,
despite assurances from Shishov that the bridge will be
completed in 2011, some are concerned about the tight timetable.
One diplomat from a neighboring country said, "They can build a
bridge in time, but I wouldn't recommend crossing it."

A Bridge to Nowhere?

8. (SBU) One further wrinkle emerged recently that has left
some Vladivostok residents particularly baffled. On Monday
President Putin reportedly urged his government to "hurry up"
and select the venue for the APEC summit: either Russkiy Island
or Patrokl Bay on the mainland. For most here, the implication
that the issue had not already been decided was a surprise.
During his visit to Vladivostok in August, then-Economic
Development Minister German Gref announced that Russkiy Island
had been definitively chosen as the forum's venue. And the
President announced in October that "a government commission,
together with regional authorities, has decided that the
summit's central events should take place on Russkiy Island."
For their part, Vladivostok city officials assured attendees at
the hearing that the bridge to Russkiy would be built regardless
of what happens with the 2012 APEC summit. At a Vladivostok
Business Club meeting a club member asked when they could expect
groundbreaking on APEC projects. A Duma representative noted
that Governor Darkin was recently on television, surveying the
site of the planned summit and pointing to the locations of the
future hotels and casinos. The Duma Deputy said he considered
the Governor's visit in itself "groundbreaking." Supporters of
Vladivostok's hosting of the APEC Summit will no doubt be
happier when they see the first shovelful of dirt turned over.

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