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G8 Summit in Saint Petersburg, tourists nightmare.
July 5, 2006 14:42

Saint Petersburg is ready to host G8 summit, that will gather world's most powerful leaders in the grounds of a former royal residence Constantine Palace in Saint-Petersburg on July 15-17. And security is above all. Not officially but in fact the city will be closed for tourists, and the townspeople are supposed to tunnel.

Whole sections of one of Europe's most beautiful cities are already cordoned off and more are supposed to be so. Tens of thousands policemen, special forces, and troops recruited from many Russian regions will set up a security ring.

For tourists and businessmen there will be no access to the city from air or water during the summit. The River Neva and all its ports, usually busy with tourist cruise boats, will be closed to all except the security services. Transport and cargo companies estimate their loss as several million dollars.

The main Pulkovo airport, which has undergone a three billion rouble (more than $100m) reconstruction to allow it to take the world's biggest aircraft, will be closed to all but official planes.

Tourists that in theory can reach the city by trains wont be welcomed in fact. They will still be allowed to access the city's historic quarters but only along heavily patrolled roads. Reasonably some of the embassies have warned its citizens to stay away from Saint Petersburg during the summit.

Even for its townspeople St. Petersburg became a disaster in hectic summit preparations. Not home any more. People who live near governmental buildings have to show IDs to policemen before they are allowed to their homes. Even one of the largest cemeteries in the city will be temporarily closed for visitors and funeral ceremonies. The Yuzhnoe cemetery is located on Volkhonskoe shosse, the shortest way from Pulkovo to Constantine palace.

Furthermore, city government has asked people to dress smart and, according to human rights activists, has sent all homeless to suburban shelters.

Russia's concerns are much to do with terrorists and anti-globalisation protesters - both of whom made an appearance in Britain during last year's summit at Gleneagles. The police says, they have legitimate security concerns. Last year, St. Petersburg saw a wave of more than 700 attacks on tourists, most in the city centre, including the knife-point robbery of the British ambassador and his wife. And until recently, this seemingly tranquil city was nicknamed Russia's murder capital.

But to be unbiased, the consequences might be not all bad. Millions are spent on upgrading airport, ports, railway stations and roads. Millions more roubles have been lavished on one of the city's most popular green spaces, the Constantine Palace, the former royal residence set in 200 acres of its own grounds on the city outskirts. More than 20 old two-storey houses have been refurbished and reconstructed to provide accommodation for the G8 leaders and their delegations. Sculptures of Greek mythological leaders have been scattered around in honour of the distinguished guests. So as the G8 summit disaster is over the city might become more hospitable to guests and more comfortable than it was before.

Nastya Makryashina


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