Authorities in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk were so eager to impress Russian president Vladimir Putin that they adorned the city with clean snow -- at least, that was the rumor that swept local media when Putin visited earlier this week.
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The reports, first published by News.ru, said that thick smog that had wrapped the city for two weeks also abruptly dissipated the night before Putin's arrival.
The story, which was picked up nationally, has been difficult to prove but has nonetheless quickly gained credence among residents who have since been asking Putin to come back so that the pristine conditions might persist.
"Our dear president, can you settle here in Krasnoyarsk? We'll breathe fresh air together every day," Lena Bausova, wrote on the web page for Krasnoyarsk Against, a group that campaigns for clean air.
The rumors reflect a wry suspicion in former Soviet countries that authorities undertake fevered efforts to spruce up their cities only when their government bosses visit. The day before Putin arrived, local residents reported seeing authorities hurriedly filling long-standing potholes on the city's roads.
Krasnoyarsk's governor's office has denied any snow was brought in, calling the claims "creative inventions," in an interview with radio station radio station Govorit Moskva. The authorities said the streets had been cleared but that there was nothing out of the ordinary. "It was a normal clean-up," Gennady Klimik, a spokesman for the governor said.
Intensive preparations -- cleaning streets, laying new roads, planting trees -- are common before official visits by Putin.
Ahead of a BRICS summit that Putin hosted in the city of Ufa in 2015, authorities put up large fences to hide rundown buildings from view, while in some areas, authorities hurriedly painted whole streets of old houses gray to deflect attention from them.
Rustem Khamitov, who served as head of the region where the summit was held, acknowledged they had done the painting, but admitted “We need to work on our taste,” according to local news site Ufacitynews.ru.