Moscow motorists protest abuse of sirens by officials

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Moscow, Feb 26 (IANS/RIA Novosti) Motorists in Moscow have launched a protest against what they call the abuse of flashing lights and sirens on top of official cars, saying only emergency vehicles should be allowed to use it.

The Blue Bucket Society, a grassroots group formed last year to direct public anger over the disregard for traffic rules displayed by drivers with the flashing lights, gathered in Moscow this week and distributed stickers opposing such privileges accorded to Russian bureaucrats.

They said bureaucrats use such lights to speed around Moscow’s ubiquitous traffic jams while regular drivers spend hours sitting in their cars.

There was uproar a year ago when two women were killed in Moscow in a head-on collision with a Mercedes of Anatoly Barkov, the vice-president of Russian oil giant LUKoil.

Witnesses said the executive’s car was driving on the wrong side of the road, claims that were denied by a LUKoil spokesman.

No charges were brought after police said they lost the CCTV footage of the accident.

In another accident involving a VIP vehicle, a woman was seriously injured in January this year after her car collided with the chauffeured BMW of Russian presidential envoy Garry Minkh.

“I only give way to 01, 02, 03,” the car stickers declared, referring to the emergency numbers for the police and fire and ambulance services respectively.

“It’s not a call to action,” said Pyotr Shkumatov, head of the Blue Buckets who glue or also attach plastic pails to the roof of their cars in mimicry of the bureaucrats.

“The text reflects the attitude of each particular person,” he said.

Only emergency and law enforcement vehicles should be allowed a special siren, he added.

Police chief Col. Anatoly Kostin said: “It is a provocation.”

The public has, however, questioned whether the protests would lead to any real change or whether the Russian elite were ready to give away their privileges.

“Of course it will. If everybody pitches in, something’s got to change. If they could do it in Africa, why could we not do it here?” activist Gennady Mironovich said.

–IANS/RIA Novosti

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