Russian mail delivery grinds to a halt amid economic crisis
Web posted at: 11:23 p.m. EDT (0323 GMT)
From Correspondent Jill Dougherty
MOSCOW (CNN) -- At Moscow's Yaroslavsky postal depot, mail is still being loaded into bags -- but the bags aren't going anywhere.
The beleaguered Russian postal service doesn't have the money to pay the railways to ship the mail. And so sack after sack of mail just sits, not just in Moscow but in cities across the country.
All of which leaves customers at post offices asking the obvious: When will my mail get there?
"A lot of retired people send packages with the last money they have from their pensions," says one postmaster. "But we can't sent it out. They're really distraught."
The women who are usually busy sorting mail are stuck waiting, listening to empty promises that more mail is on the way.
Some of the packages contain food sent to needy relatives in Russia's poorer regions. It's spoiling, so the workers open the packages and try to clean up the mess.
Russia's mail meltdown has been building for years. The government didn't pay the post office enough to handle the mail, and the post office couldn't pay for the trains. Then, last month, when Russia's economic crisis took a hard turn, the trains just stopped.
Across Russia, about 1,000 mail cars, out of 1,200, are stuck in place. For the past month, Vladimir Zhukov has been living in his mail car, which normally crisscrosses the country.
"It was completely unexpected," he says. "You go to work -- you're all ready for it -- and now we're sitting here for a month. Our families are back home."
But Zhukov says he can't just leave. He has to guard the mail.
At the Yaroslavsky depot, they've gotten three of 180 stalled mail cars unblocked. The government promises that full service is about to resume.
But that alone won't be enough to convince skeptical Russians. Zhukov says the mood is the same across the country -- people no longer believe anything or anybody.
Back to the top
© 2000 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.