20 september 2010

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin visits the Baltic Media Group’s St Petersburg office and talks to those staffing its public reception room


"I would like to thank you for all your hard work. I know that you set up this public reception room to allow direct contact with members of the public," Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said after greeting those staffing the office.

He asked how many inquiries the reception room gets per day, and what the most frequent complaints are in St Petersburg.

One member of staff said that they receive 15 to 20 queries each day, and that most of them concern housing, public utilities and other everyday problems.

The prime minister asked whether citizens turn to them for legal assistance, and heard that there are professional lawyers on the staff.

Baltic Media Group President Oleg Rudnov gave Mr Putin one example of a particular matter the staff had dealt with. Some locals had been left with nowhere to wash after the public baths and sauna in the Petrogradsky District were closed. "So we set up a club for people there who wanted to use the public baths and sauna," he said.

The prime minister asked St Petersburg Governor Valentina Matvienko what the problem was with the public baths and sauna. Ms Matvienko, who was standing next to him, said that the facility had been sold to a private entrepreneur as part of an investment project. "But we said we would not authorise any construction works unless he also builds new baths with capacity for at least a hundred customers at a time." The governor promised that the municipal authorities would ensure that the entrepreneur makes good on his agreement to provide the neighbourhood with this much-needed facility. In response Prime Minister Putin said that although this may seem a clear-cut, mundane issue, but that it was absolutely fundamental.

He also heard about a recent request made by people from the Leningrad Region's Vsevolozhsky District, which is right next to the city. They were experiencing problems with water supply after the utilities system servicing their village passed into private ownership. "We headed out there together with the ombudsman and the public prosecutor, and water supply resumed in two days' time," one staff worker said.

"This really helped the municipal authorities. Thank you very much," Prime Minister Vladimir Putin replied.

He also congratulated the public reception room on its fifth anniversary and presented its staff with a gift - a birch-bark letter dating back to when Russia first embraced Christianity (the late 10th century), which had been unearthed during archaeological excavations in Novgorod, saying that it had been presented to him by an archaeologist at the excavation site.

The editor in chief of the Nevskoye Vremya newspaper gave him a present in return, a recent 3D newspaper issue complete with special 3D glasses.