As someone who has some of his very best friends living in and from Russia and has also had the great pleasure of visiting Russia, I can attest to the well known fact that traffic in Moscow is completely insane.
We may think that traffic in Belfast’s city centre is terrible at the moment due to changes being brought into effect to make it more suited to public transport as opposed to commuter’s in their cars, and yes, it is a bit of a nightmare at the moment, however, it is nothing compared to what many Moscovites have come to expect and face daily.
It is the norm now for Moscow’s many existing and substantially increasing number of drivers to be in grid lock for at least an hour or more on their way to and from work every single day.
What makes this ordeal even worse is the fact that when either Prime Minister Medvedev or President Putin decide to drive from the outskirts of the city to the Kremlin or the White House (yes, there is one in Moscow too) this is in a rather large cortege. So far, so good, but the problem is that the authorities will stop all traffic and clear the way for either the President or the Prime Minister’s rather large cavalcade to snake it’s way through the city and to it’s final destination.
Needless to say, Moscovites are starting to let both Dmitry and Vladimir know that they are not too impressed by this state of affairs, in keeping with the fact that large numbers protesting who where either not impressed with the alleged vote rigging and fraud during the elections for the Duma (Russian parliament) or for the Presidential elections where now Prime Minister Medvedev stood down after only one term in office and let his running partner Putin to run for the role of President, one he had held before.
In a show of ever increasing civic awareness and peaceful demonstration, Moscovites stuck behind police lines in their cars waiting for a presidential cavalcade to pass by have resorted to honking their horns incessantly until allowed to move. Harmless stuff, right? Indeed. This simple protest has been so effective that it would appear that both Putin and Medvedev have decided to limit the number of times they will now travel in central Moscow like this, opting to either work from home in their official residences or flying into the capital by way of helicopter in some cases!
Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov notes the reason behind the President’s change of tact on this matter:
‘The president is minimising his meetings in the Kremlin and is preferring to hold them in Ogaryovo to avoid disturbing Muscovites. There is no substantive difference – if the meeting does not require any kind of ceremony, it is held in the suburban residence. He really has cut the use of motorcades to the minimum in Moscow.’
The situation got so comical that when the Prime Minster traveled to St. Petersburg and was in his customary cavalcade, the home of both Putin and Medvedev, the latter was subjected to a fairly vocal display of abuse from the locals. The Guardian reported the following:
‘Georgy Poltavchenko, the city’s governor, publicly criticised drivers. “When we were driving with our country’s prime minister down the streets of our glorious city, only the lazy didn’t honk,” he said. “People stood by, raising all sorts of fingers. As a St Petersburger, I was ashamed. I’ve never seen such open boorishness.’