Wednesday, August 31, 2016


Russian Prime Minister's Road-Safety Video Sparks Ridicule, Criticism

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev steps out of a BMW SUV in a video posted on his blog. As one commentator noted, all it needed was a gangster-film soundtrack.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev steps out of a BMW SUV in a video posted on his blog. As one commentator noted, all it needed was a gangster-film soundtrack.
By Tom Balmforth
MOSCOW -- It began as an earnest attempt by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to address the issue of road safety in Russia. But it quickly turned into a PR disaster.

In a video blog posted over the weekend, Medvedev proposed dramatically increasing fines for traffic infractions and criminal penalties for drunk driving.

Sporting a black leather hoodie, Medvedev pulls up in a dark BMW X5 sport utility vehicle (SUV), dramatically exits the vehicle, and looks intently into the camera.

"Practically every week, and often several times, there is news of terrible traffic accidents, including such outrageous ones as people being run down at a bus stop and children dying," Medvedev says.

"Even the sidewalks have become dangerous. City authorities already have to ponder special measures to protect pedestrians in what is their legal zone."

But rather than spark serious public debate about a very real problem in Russia, the video's macho style has been ridiculed and the prime minister's proposals broadly panned.

Speaking to Dozhd TV, political analyst Yevgeny Minchenko called Medvedev's video address a "disaster" for his image.

"I think the only thing missing from this clip was the music from the [popular 2003 gangster film] 'Bimmer.' At the beginning he drives up in a black BMW X5, the most criminal of cars, in a black leather jacket," Minchenko said.

"If they'd only added the music from 'Bimmer,' then everything image-wise would have been spot on. Instead only this stroke was missing. I think this is simply an image disaster."

About 23,000 people died in traffic accidents in Russia in the first 10 months of this year.
About 23,000 people died in traffic accidents in Russia in the first 10 months of this year.

A YouTube user apparently had the same idea and posted a mock video splicing scenes and theme music from "Bimmer" into Medvedev's clip. The video also includes embarrassing footage of Medvedev dancing and losing control of a parked car.

A commentator for the popular daily "Moskovsky komsomolets" wrote that Medvedev looked like he was in an advertisement for the latest gleaming BMW SUV -- a German car -- and jokingly dubbed him a "foreign advertising agent."

Cool Reception

But it wasn't just the style of Medvedev's appeal that drew barbs. The substance of his proposals was also criticized.

Mikhail Prokhorov, a billionaire tycoon and former presidential candidate, wrote in a strongly worded blog post that the government would be better off first tackling the rundown condition of Russian roads.

He ridiculed Medvedev's proposal of fines up to half a million rubles ($16,000) for traffic infractions such as running a red light. "It would be nice to ask the former president whether he knows what the average salary is in the country he used to run," Prokhorov wrote. 

Medvedev later clarified on Twitter that he only intended the high fines for drunk drivers.

But even that was received coolly. Speaking to the daily "Komsomolskaya pravda," State Duma Deputy Vyacheslav Lysakov called the prime minister's proposals "insufficient."

Lysakov, who has taken up the issue of road safety in the Duma, said he favored a Western-style points system that would punish repeat traffic offenders. He added that Medvedev's proposals on drunk driving lack a clear criterion for measuring intoxication.

When he was president in 2010, Medvedev introduced a zero-blood-alcohol threshold, meaning that drivers with even trace alcohol content are breaking the law.

Cracking Down On Drunk Driving

Currently, the maximum punishment for first-time drunk-driving offenders is the loss of one's driving license for 12-18 months. Repeat offenders can lose their license for three years and be fined 5,000 rubles ($161).

In addition to proposing stiffer fines on drunk drivers, Medvedev has also ordered the government to draft legislation raising the punishment for causing death while driving intoxicated to five to 15 years in prison.

Pyotr Shkumatov, an activist with the motorists' rights group Blue Bucket Brigade, says introducing huge fines without clear criteria for what level of blood-alcohol content constitutes intoxication will lead to widespread corruption. "Many people are already starting to joke about the man who took just two bribes and retired to Monte Carlo," he adds.

Medvedev's video appeared amid rising public outrage over drunk driving. In a highly publicized case in September, a heavily intoxicated Moscow driver lost control of his car and drove into a bus stop, killing seven people, including five teenagers.

According to a poll last month by the All-Russian Center for Public Opinion Research (VTsIOM), 63 percent of Russians support tougher legislation against drunk drivers.

Some officials have called for confiscating offenders' vehicles and the famously bombastic nationalist lawmaker Vladimir Zhirinovsky has even said convicted drunk drivers should be branded.

Last month, an activist plastered a fake Health Ministry advertisement onto a billboard near a highway that read: "We're tired of warnings. Stop [expletive] drunk driving."

In the first 10 months of this year, some 23,000 people have died in traffic accidents in Russia. There were 28,000 fatalities on the country's roads in 2011.

Tom Balmforth

Tom Balmforth covers Russia and other former Soviet republics.


This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Camel Anaturk from: Kurdistan
November 28, 2012 09:13
Comrade Medvedyev is only right,but I think we should extend the drunk-drive ban to drunk-writing posts as well.We know this will prohibit the soviet Beavus and Buttheads of Jack and Eugenio from shining their lights on these pages,but ultimately this will prove to be a worthwile sacrifice.Vakhtang,tretyim budyesh???

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
November 28, 2012 12:23
I mean, reading this kind of "news" makes one worry for the career perspective of the RFE/RL staff: apparently, the task here was to find something "negative" that would depict the life in Russia as absolutely unbearable. And the only thing the guys manage to come up with is this pretty uninteresting story about some kind of road-traffic video that Medwedew made. Sad, I mean, guys, really sad: if this is the "negative" "news" about this specific country, I am afraid there will be nothing left for you to cover at all a couple of years from now. You know what: better stick to the Pussy Riot stuff - there, at least, you can clearly identify TWO people who are in prison. Because this "story" of the Medwedew video makes one think that traffic accidents are the highest concern of the population in Russia - and this is already very far from the picture of it that you are supposed to transmit, isn't it :-)?
In Response

by: peter from: ottawa
November 28, 2012 14:05
this is exactly what one would expect from a fool and a dwarf

by: Vakhtang from: Moscow
November 28, 2012 16:12
People from the West should to understand long ago ,Medvedev and Putin is a typical Russian rednecks, who is prone to crime.
Under the scheme of Lombroso, Mr.Putin a pathological maniac.
Here we must remember that abkhazians murderers, who is friends with a camel in their constitution define Medvedev and Putin as inferior types (article 49)...
In other words, all the bandits have found each other:
Putin, Medvedev. Abkhazians killers, Palestinian terrorists, Somali pirates and of course the most dangerous gangster -camel,who has gone crazy with hunger in a strange land..

In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
November 29, 2012 10:58
Vakhtang, you are saying: "Medvedev and Putin is a typical Russian rednecks, who is prone to crime". :-))) Vakhtang, you are so funny sometimes - why should a "redneck" be "prone to crime"? From what I know, the Beavuses call "redbecks" those of their compatriots who live in rural areas and work a lot (and please do correct me if I am wrong). Like peasants, you know. But I don't think that "being prone to crime" is one of their characterstics.
In Response

by: Vakhtang from: Moscow
November 30, 2012 03:50
Oh, come on Eugenio playing the fool!
You well know that redneck in Russia it's not just rural workaholic, it is just as stubborn, uneducated and dumb type,something like a camel...
Medvedev is sometimes speak silly things and it is well known.
The question here, he says all this intentional or not?.. any option not in favor of the people of Russia
In the first case, he's just making fun of the people of Russia
in the second case, he really moronic type..
send you a blanket, so you do not freeze in the cave?

In Response

by: Camel Anaturk from: Free Abkhazia
November 29, 2012 12:58
Dear Vahe Djan,me & my camels were on a business visit to the Free parts of Georgia,starting with Abkhazia,and there was a lot of drinking.eating,dancing and singing and quite a lot of food and drink remained- untouched and as I learned that you and most georgians generally are suffering with chronic hunger we all thought of treating you with the left overs from our fiesty fiesta.So,please ,stop making the rounds of Mosscow streets pillaging the garbage bins of the poor musscovites,just find a big cart,put yourself in the place of the donkey,and start pulling the cart towards Abkhazia.And do it quickly,because very soon we must start on our way to South Ossetia,to taste their delicassies-and we promise you all the future leftovers,too!!!

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