Policemen Cause Havoc on City Roads

"Serve and protect" may be the motto of Russia's police, but "drink and drive" has been closer to the truth this past week as three police officers have caused serious traffic accidents, involving injuries and one death, due to drinking or carelessness.

No one - including foreign ambassadors, Russian officials in motorcades and ordinary folks riding a tram - has been safe from on- or off-duty cops behind the wheel.

Moscow police Lieutenant Alexander Vasilyev on Wednesday caused a serious traffic accident on Moscow's northern Shcholkovskoye Shosse when he rammed his unmarked car into a Mercedes motorcade and hit the car transporting the president of Chuvashia, Nikolai Fyodorov, Segodnya newspaper reported.

According to the newspaper, Vasilyev, 32, was intoxicated while driving. The officer apparently disregarded a yield sign on the parallel road leading to Shcholkovskoye Shosse. After speeding past a standing traffic inspector, who dove under his vehicle to avoid the oncoming officer, he turned on to the road and crashed into the oncoming motorcade.

There were no injuries and no information was available as to what recourse Fyodorov would take.

A spokeswoman for the Interior Ministry said she was aware of the incident, but refused to comment in detail.

A traffic policeman called to the scene reportedly said that although the drunken officer should be fined and punished, chances are the incident will be ignored.

"Most likely, no one will [punish] him: He's one of ours," Segodnya quoted him as saying.

It was the third such accident caused by careless police officers in five days.

Last Sunday, policemen crashed into a car carrying Swedish Ambassador Sven Hirdman and his wife, Marianne, the Izvestia newspaper reported.

They had just flown in from France and were on their way home from Sheremetyevo Airport when a traffic police officer crashed into the back of their Volga.

The ambassador and his wife suffered bruises and were immediately driven to the consulate, and their driver, whose name was not released, was taken to a hospital with broken ribs, Izvestia reported.

The rear end of the Volga was destroyed.

The traffic police had no comment and there has been no information regarding either the officer's name or whether he had been drinking.

And on Jan. 15, on Shcherbakovskaya Ulitsa, a Moscow traffic policeman, Vladimir Kozeyev, crashed into a tram car with his Toyota sport utility vehicle, killing one person and seriously injuring five others.

Moscow traffic police confirmed the fatal accident had occurred but would give no details. Izvestia, citing the traffic police press center, reported that the officer was driving while drunk.