MOSCOW (AP) — Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Tuesday pledged to cut traffic privileges for officials, who routinely bypass Moscow's notorious traffic jams by ignoring basic rules of the road and even driving into oncoming lanes.
The privileges are a strong irritant for Muscovites, who have increasingly expressed their discontent with Putin's policies and widespread government corruption, endangering his chances of sweeping into a third term as president.
Putin promised to cut the number of officials entitled to traffic privileges to "a few dozens," Russia news agencies reported. There are currently nearly 890 officials in Moscow who keep blue flashing lights on their vehicles, allowing them to ignore traffic rules.
Meanwhile, Russia's outgoing president Dmitry Medvedev on Tuesday warned of increased violence in North Caucasus ahead of the March 4 presidential vote.
An Islamic insurgency has spread across that region since two separatists wars Russia fought in Chechnya. Medvedev said that insurgents could use the March vote to increase the pressure on Russian authorities, and asked officials at the country's spy agency FSB to be vigilant and prevent "insurgents' provocations."
For the first time in years, Russians are challenging the control of Putin, who was previously president from 2000 to 2008 and has since been prime minister. On Saturday, as many as 120,000 people turned out for the third and perhaps largest mass demonstration since Putin's party won a parliamentary election Dec. 4 with the help of what appeared to be widespread fraud.