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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Duma Scolds Putin for Traffic Jams

It's the nightmare of every Moscow motorist, swooping down on unsuspecting drivers on the city's clogged streets, locking cars in place for hours on exhaust-filled roads: President Vladimir Putin's motorcade.

Exasperated by the jams, lawmakers in the State Duma on Wednesday adopted an appeal to the president, asking him to "abolish the archaic practice of blocking roads for the passage of official convoys of any level." The Duma voted 262-1 to approve the nonbinding request.

The author of the appeal, film director Stanislav Govorukhin, apparently experienced being locked in a Kremlin-made jam over a recent weekend. He described in the appeal an hours-long backup caused when a major road to Moscow was blocked for hours while tens of thousands of Muscovites were returning from their country cottages.

"And there were women, children in the cars," the letter said. "There were the heat and clouds of dust from cars trying to pass the jam along the curbs. No water wells, no toilets."

Some roads remained blocked even 90 minutes after Putin's convoy whizzed past.

During his foreign trips, Putin usually travels by air, and he used a "very modest" entourage of bodyguards during a recent visit to a Russian peacekeeping unit in the Yugoslav province of Kosovo, the letter notes.

"But the situation changes radically in Moscow," the parliamentary letter said.

Stopping traffic to allow swift passage by convoys of the country's leaders is a practice common in most countries.

Former President Boris Yeltsin also had traffic stopped to clear the way for his convoys — but only in the direction he was traveling, and only for about the amount time it took him to pass a stretch of road.

But under Putin, long before the presidential cortege approaches, police stop all regular traffic along the president's route, in both directions.

Scores of people were forced to spend the night in their cars during his visit last month to St. Petersburg for a meeting with Austrian President Thomas Klestil.

To clear the way for the two presidents, the embankments of the Neva River, which cuts the city in half, were closed until late at night. Traffic was allowed to resume only a few minutes before bridges over the Neva were drawn up — a nightly practice to allow ships to pass — so that motorists who found themselves on the wrong side of the river had no way of getting home until the morning.