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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Parking: Fight For Your Rights

Finding somewhere to park in the center of town is still a big problem. And not only in the center: There are no special parking areas around most airports, railway stations or supermarkets either.

If you park in a so-called platnaya avtostoyanka you find yourself having to pay a fee -- around 6,000 rubles ($1.20) -- to strange people in uniform who collect the money for every hour you leave your car there. If you ask them whether they have a state license for such an activity, don't expect a straight answer. The only official state parking zone is along Tverskaya Ulitsa.

At the same time, the Moscow city government is clamping down hard on drivers who park their cars near popular shopping and tourist areas. The riskiest places are Novy Arbat and 1-aya Tverskaya Yamskaya Ulitsa.

The most popular punishment for such offenders is to fix a wheel clamp -- the infamous "boot" -- to the front wheel of the car. If this happens, you are supposed to wait for a traffic policeman to appear and pay him to remove the clamp. The problem is that, according to Russian traffic rules and regulations, the traffic police have no right to carry out this kind of punishment. The only official punishment provided for in the regulations is a fine equal to one-fifth of the official minimum wage (about 63,000 rubles). This is stated clearly in article 115 of the Civil Code of the Russian Federation.

So if you find your car with a strange wheel clamp on the front wheel you can to refuse to pay for its removal. If the police officer won't take it off, you have the right to remove the stupid device yourself by any means you choose.

Sometimes the traffic police will tow away an illegally parked car on a special truck to a police pound. If this happens, you will have to pay the cost of transportation (about 167,000 rubles), parking in the pound (about 85,000 rubles per day) and a penalty for illegal parking. However, this action contravenes the Russian Constitution which says that the property of a Russian citizen (as well as of a foreign citizen on the territory of Russia) can be removed only through the courts. No one is going to take you to court though -- they'll just expect you to pay the money and take your car away.

But you have a right not to pay for this "service" and to seek legal redress against the traffic police. If you have paid to get your car out of the pound, you should keep your receipt and find out about winning compensation in court.

I have heard about several drivers who have won such cases in Moscow courts, but not many people are willing to become embroiled in the nightmare of the Russian legal system. Other drivers prefer to pay the police or to park their cars far away from the shops or the railroad station and just put up with carrying their heavy luggage.