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Cablegate: Pornography On Ice: Vladivostok Sends Mayor a Message

VZCZCXRO8477
RR RUEHCHI RUEHDBU RUEHFK RUEHHM RUEHKSO RUEHLN RUEHNAG RUEHPB RUEHSK
RUEHYG
DE RUEHVK #0121/01 3510407
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 170407Z DEC 09
FM AMCONSUL VLADIVOSTOK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1247
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHZU/ASIAN PACIFIC ECONOMIC COOPERATION COLLECTIVE
RUEHVK/AMCONSUL VLADIVOSTOK 1358

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 VLADIVOSTOK 000121

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV ECON RS
SUBJECT: PORNOGRAPHY ON ICE: VLADIVOSTOK SENDS MAYOR A MESSAGE

VLADIVOSTO 00000121 001.2 OF 002


1. (SBU) Summary. "Have you seen the newspaper?" was the
question of the day in Vladivostok on December 17. The front
page of the Pacific Komsomolets newspaper featured a shocking
photo of, what shall we call it, a snow phallus erected by
residents outraged with the city's lack of snow and ice removal.
Snow and ice have paralyzed the city for almost two weeks after
a blizzard hit Vladivostok on December 5. Early on, some
residents even had to sleep in their cars and abandon the
commute home, due to traffic jams. Rather than just a prank
that would be the subject of puns and double entendres, this
incident also exposes some serious political issues. End
summary.

2. (SBU) First, is the legitimacy of Mayor Pushkaryev. The
mayor was installed by Moscow, since other contenders to the
post were found ineligible for a host of technical reasons.
Despite a public relations campaign to improve his image, the
mayor's popularity is at an all time low. The mayor has been on
television repeatedly in the last few days to attempt to deflect
some of the criticism, but so far residents are not satisfied.
Icy conditions have caused 590 registered accidents with six
deaths. Clinics and hospitals are also trying to cope with
scores of ice-related injuries as the sidewalks are even worse
than the roads.

3. (SBU) Residents have been unable to safely demonstrate their
displeasure with the mayor in more traditional ways. Even
sanctioned protests have been broken up violently or by citing
motorists heading to protests for minor, or imagined infractions
as happened last week. The communists, TIGR (Citizens
Initiative of Russia) and the Federation of Motorists of Russia
attempted to band together to protest a wide range of government
actions and inactions, but they never reached the main square,
even though they were ostensibly allowed to stage a
demonstration, since militia men pulled over all traffic heading
in that direction. There was a hint of the unrest as early as
November, when communist leaders attempted to present the mayor
with a shovel after the first snowfall. The mayor's security
guards didn't allow the shovel in the building and the mayor
quoted a Russian proverb saying "he who brings a shovel, should
use it."

4. (SBU) The newspaper that printed the photo is also part of
the story, since it was founded by journalists who had been
dismissed from a competing paper that the mayor's team bought
and then used for their own promotion. Pacific Komsomolets asks
on the front page whether the rude sculpture isn't a message
from Vladivostok residents to the Mayor. The city, in response,
banned the sale of the paper to minors, a possible precursor to
pornography charges for the editors. The paper says the
"immodest" photo was not preplanned and that the mayor is waging
war on Vladivostok citizens through an "ice blockade." The
report claims that the sculpture was made by citizens waiting,
and waiting, for a city bus to make it through the ice. It will
be interesting to see what the front page, full frontal photo
does for the newspaper's circulation and whether it is shut
down.

5. (SBU) In the mayor's defense, it is not clear how many snow
plows the city has, what federal resources were available, and
whether the city has first priority on contract plows. And it
was a big storm. However, there are rumors that the plows were
enticed to richer neighborhoods at first and by the time they
got around to the secondary roads the snow had turned to black
ice. Crews are out in force now, chipping away at the ice and
treating the roads with sand, but it appears much of the snow
and ice will be with us until the spring thaw in April. The
mayor does not do himself any credit by blaming "hackers" for
calling for his resignation, but it is a variation from the
usual suspects -- the Soros Foundation or the Rotary Club.

6. (SBU) Work crews are out in force now, trying to chip the ice
off the sidewalks and treat secondary roads with sand and salt,
but it appears much of the ice will remain until April's thaw.
Ice fisherman are now on the bay, avoiding the traffic jams, and
the temperature is hovering around -20C at night. Trucks are
also hampered from getting in and out of the port, which is
situated in downtown Vladivostok. At least one Consulate crate
is trapped in the port due to the ice storm and the consulate
has closed early on several occasions to prevent four and five
hour commutes one way for staff.

7. (SBU) Governor Darkin has remained above the fray, and in
fact is up for reappointment as governor. All indications are
that he will be reappointed, given a positive meeting with
President Medvedev this week in Moscow. For Mayor Pushkaryev
the future is not as predictable. Nor is it for the editors of
Pacific Komsomolets. As for residents, Vladivostok is a city
that on one hand is proud that APEC 2012 will be held here, but
on the other hand is wondering if the city has the right man in
the job of mayor. They certainly do have some creative snow

VLADIVOSTO 00000121 002.2 OF 002


artists and an innovative and provocative way to stage a protest.
JOHNSON

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