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Mid-day Update

In Russia, traffic jams are a little different

Peter van Dyk Feb 8, 2012

Jeremy Hobson: We’ve all sat in a traffic jam and imagined putting a flashing light on the top of the car and speeding off as everyone gets out of our way. Just a dream? Not for hundreds of government officials in Moscow.

In today’s Mid-Day Extra, Peter van Dyk reports.

Peter van Dyk: Moscow has a serious traffic problem. There are two ways to avoid it: stay off the roads, or get a flashing blue light for your car. Almost 1,000 government officials in Moscow have them. They are the ultimate perk in a habitually gridlocked city.

Peter Shkumatov: The drivers cannot be punished for breaking the law, says motoring campaigner Peter Shkumatov. His group protests against officials’ flashing lights by taping blue plastic buckets to the roofs of their cars.

For years, his group had little success protesting the privileged class of Russian drivers. But now, with tens of thousands of people regularly protesting against the government, prime minister Vladimir Putin is making concessions to the opposition.

He says he will take the hated flashing lights away from hundreds of officials. How he decides who gets to keep them, no one knows. But with Moscow’s traffic unlikely to move any faster, at least soon more of the elite might be stuck in it, too.

For Marketplace, I’m Peter van Dyk in Moscow.

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