The powerful mayor of Moscow on Saturday slammed the much-delayed reconstruction of the city's famed Bolshoi Theatre and bluntly warned that the main contractor would be replaced if it did not hurry.
The legendary music and ballet theatre in the Russian capital shut its doors in 2005 for a major restoration that was originally supposed to have been completed in 2008.
But the target date now has been set back to October 2011 and there have even been fears that this could even prove premature for the main contractor, private company Kurortproekt.
"We have warned the main contractor that we are on the verge of dispensing with their services," Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov told reporters in comments broadcast on state television.
"We have made clear our concerns to the main contractor about the sluggishness of the work," added Luzhkov after a visit to the construction site.
Luzhkov said the main priority was to ensure the building was heated by the onset of winter in November so that machinery can be employed that can only be used in warm temperatures.
"If we succeed, we will have a working winter. If we are late, then the work will lose to the winter," he said.
Luzhkov described the work as very complicated and said that a similar warning had also been handed to the designers of the project.
The reconstruction has proved a major embarrassment for Russia's cultural authorities and Russian investigators are already probing allegations that millions of dollars have been embezzled in the reconstruction.
The Bolshoi stage, built between 1821 and 1825, had long been in need of major repairs when it closed, with visible cracks on the facade and performers hampered by a lack of backstage space.
The company has been performing on its smaller "New Stage" nearby but artists have complained this limits the scope of big productions.