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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

City Ban Sought on Some Vehicles

Moscow's crowded streets are packed with run-down Ladas and Volgas spewing plumes of black exhaust from their tailpipes. But their drivers might want to consider upgrading their ride in the near future if they want to continue carting around the city center.

A bill is in the works in the City Duma that would ban from certain areas cars that fail to meet emissions standards -- legislation which proponents say will improve the city's brutal air quality but which critics say will widen the gap between the rich and poor.

The bill, which would order the creation of special zones with limited access for traffic, was to be discussed Wednesday at the City Duma's final session before the summer recess but was delayed until September, when lawmakers will return to the job.

United Russia Deputy Vera Stepanenko said the legislation was aimed at reducing air pollution and traffic jams in the city's most polluted areas.

"The worst situation, of course, is in the city center," Stepanenko said Wednesday. "But we might also consider limiting access of cars to green areas, such as parks."

Under the bill, all cars in Moscow would be tested for the amount of exhaust they emit and banned accordingly from the city's most polluted regions, Stepanenko said. These regions would be determined with the help of technology already in place that measures air pollution levels.

Opponents of the bill have castigated it as unconstitutional and say it would foment social discord.

"Take a businessman who drives a Mercedes," said Leonid Olshansky, vice president of the Movement of Russia's Motorists.

"They would have to let him pass because he has a good car with a low toxicity level."

Anyone driving a Lada, "which of course has a high toxicity level," would be denied in a "gross" violation of constitution guarantees of freedom of movement and their equal rights regardless of social status, Olshansky said.

Yabloko Deputy Sergei Mitrokhin suggested in an interview on Ekho Moskvy radio Tuesday that United Russia deputies were merely trying to spare themselves from horrific traffic jams in the city center.

Stepanenko said it could take up to one year to finalize the bill and several more months before it is submitted for consideration.

Olshansky said members of his organization, together with several State Duma deputies and Federation Council senators, would prepare a written appeal to the City Duma in the fall in a bid to block the bill.