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Putin Again Says Officials Should Drive Russian-Made Cars

  • Robert Coalson

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin drives a Lada Kalina along the Chita-Khabarovsk highway in August 2010.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin drives a Lada Kalina along the Chita-Khabarovsk highway in August 2010.

Russian Prime Minister and President-elect Vladimir Putin has announced another bid to bolster the country's sagging auto industry.

Speaking in Tolyatti at the launching of the new Lada Largus passenger car on April 5, Putin announced a series of measures to help automakers, including a proposal that all cars purchased at state expense be produced within the Russia-Belarus-Kazakhstan economic space.

"I think that all the bodies of state and municipal authority in the Russian Federation and all entities financed from the federal budget should in the very near future begin to buy only cars made on the territory of the Russian Federation and the common economic space, in other words in Russia, Kazakhstan, and Belarus," Putin said.

Putin immediately added that exceptions to the rule would be made in cases where the needed automobiles are not produced within the common economic space.

The online newspaper Gazeta.ru noted that considering the large number of foreign-brand luxury and business-class cars that are already being manufactured in Russia, Putin's initiative may do little to help Russian automakers or to contain the appetites of Russian bureaucrats.

The Economic Development Ministry has announced it will prepare the necessary legislation within two months.

The official website for Russian state tenders shows that the Volgograd Oblast town of Novoanninsky is looking for a Fiat Ducato and a Hyundai Solaris, while the state hospital in the same town is in the market for a Mitsubishi Outlander XL.

Putin opens the trunk of a new Lada Granta during a visit to Tolyatti in May 2011.

Putin opens the trunk of a new Lada Granta during a visit to Tolyatti in May 2011.

The judiciary in Krasnodar Krai is ready to pay nearly 1.3 million rubles ($44,000) for a Toyota Camry, while the administration of the Astrakhan Oblast village of Chagan has found 1.27 million rubles in its coffers for a Volkswagen Tiguan.

One local blogger noted that that amount is nearly one-third of the village's annual budget, but conceded that the purchase might be a good idea because roads in the village "are practically nonexistent." The population of Chagan is 1,500.

'Buy Russian!'

Putin's latest initiative is by no means his first. In late 2008, during a visit to the KamAZ plant in Naberzhnye Chelny, Putin said, "When our producers are being forced to cut production, I consider it absolutely unacceptable [for the state] to spend money to purchase imported cars."

When Putin visited Tolyatti in May 2011 to test the new Lada Granta, he made headlines when it took him five tries to start the car. Officials later explained that the prime minister wasn't used to the car's state-of-the-art electronic accelerator. There was no explanation as to why it took him three tries to close the new car's trunk.

But maybe some less-powerful Russian-made cars will help cut down on the tragic phenomenon of state officials causing traffic accidents by ignoring traffic regulations, especially by speeding. A 2009 Channel One state television report called such events "practically routine" across "the entire country."

Just a little over a week ago, an Audi 8 being driven by an unidentified member of the State Duma leadership crashed into a humble, Russian-made Gazel.

In that case, no one was injured, unlike a 2011 incident in which a BMW carrying President Dmitry Medvedev's representative to the State Duma, Garri Minkh, smashed into another car -- killing Minkh's driver and severely injuring the driver of the other car -- while traveling at high speed in the lane for oncoming traffic.

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