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Putin seeks votes with road hog ban

Russian road hogs who routinely use their official status to avoid Moscow traffic jams with dangerous driving stunts like using the wrong side of the road are facing a clampdown.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has pledged to end their privileges, an irritant for Muscovites who have increasingly expressed their discontent with Mr Putin's policies and widespread government corruption, endangering his chances of sweeping into a third term as president after the March 4 election.

Traffic in Moscow gets routinely stopped every day to clear the road for the speeding motorcades carrying Mr Putin, President Dmitry Medvedev and even visiting foreign dignitaries. Roads can be closed for as long as an hour in the anticipation of the motorcade to flash past. Irritated Muscovites express their frustration with the passing officials by honking their horns.

In a visible attempt to appease the growing discontent with Russian bureaucrats and bigwigs, Mr Putin promised to make a "drastic cut" in the number of officials entitled to traffic privileges to "a few dozens".

There are currently nearly 890 officials in Moscow who keep blue flashing lights on their vehicles, allowing them to ignore traffic rules. The expected cut would not affect Mr Putin, parliament speakers and a few other top officials.

As Moscow roads are getting busier, the blue flashing lights have become a metaphor for corrupt officials abusing their powers. Activists have over the recent years named and shamed scores of officials and top executives for using the privileges that they are not even entitled to.

Road accidents involving cars with special privileges have caused public outrage in recent years. A deadly collision in 2010 when a car of a top oil executive killed two women passengers in a car in an oncoming lane led to a boycott of the oil company's service stations. The oil executive was cleared of charges, but activists insisted that he had jumped into the oncoming lane, crashing into the passing car.

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