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#4 - JRL 7007
The Guardian (UK)
January 7, 2003
Dark days in store for traffic-cheating elite
Nick Paton Walsh in Moscow

Moscow's ultimate symbol of power, enabling its bearer to cut through the greatest obstacle to daily life - traffic - may soon be illegal. Flashing blue lights may be outlawed under new laws planned by MPs keen to see the elitist symbol banished.

The sets of lights were intended to be restricted to use by ministry vehicles, yet they have become widespread as Russia's business elite used the chaos of the Yeltsin era to buy privileges reserved for state functionaries.

There are now up to 1,000 sets in use in Moscow, yet only 650 of those are being used by government ministries.

The lights, often fixed by removable magnets, are sometimes accompanied by a siren. Campaigners say that the cars with lights, which often drive the wrong way down the street to avoid traffic jams, caused 193 accidents in the first nine months of last year, including eight fatalities.

A new law, drafted by the MP Viktor Pokhmelkin, would limit the numbers of lights so that only ministries and foreign dignitaries on state visits could use them.

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