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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Car Plates Get a Facelift

Russian automobiles will get new license plates bearing a Russian flag and using only Latin, rather than Cyrillic letters, and drivers will be issued new laminated licenses starting next year, a traffic police spokesman said Tuesday.

Stanislav Yablochkin, an official of the State Automobile Inspectorate (GAI), said the changes in plates and licenses are designed to prevent forgeries and to bring Russia in line with international standards.

Foreigners, however, will not be affected by the new regulations, he said.

He said the changes will be phased in over the remainder of the 1990s. New license plates and driver's licenses will be issued for cars, either new or used, purchased after next Jan. 1 and for their drivers.

The remaining current licenses and plates will remain valid until Dec. 31, 1999, he added.

The new driving license will look more like the standard American license - laminated and with a photograph to prevent forgery, he said.

Yablochkin promised that the procedure for the new licenses will only take "10 minutes".

"Because there is no deadline for everyone to change documentation at the same time", there will not be the same kind of bureaucratic delays that Russians seeking required new foreign passports have encountered, Yablochkin said.

Russia's 25 million car owners, however, might understandably be apprehensive.

Unlike before, when the state subsidized the costs of licensing and registration, drivers will be required to pay for the new documentation. But the GAI spokesman "didn't know exactly how much" this would cost.

The technical reason for the changes - the Vienna Convention of 1968 - requires that symbols on license plates readily identify the nationality of the registered owner.

The old car registration and driver's licenses are easy to forge. Both are made of paper and are not laminated. If the car is stolen, the thief can easily alter the registration, Yablochkin said.