Frustrated by increasing numbers of official corteges blocking traffic - including ambulances and fire engines - for up to 20 minutes, one Muscovite web user decided to film the practice on his mobile phone and post it online.
The same problem exists in the rest of Europe, including France, where officials often come before the urgently ill. But in Moscow, Web users have noticed that the convoys come thicker and faster, leading them to suspect increasing numbers of "officials" are taking advantage of the privilege. Online debates about the tradition gave one popular Muscovite blogger, Voinodel, the idea of capturing a stalled ambulance on video.
27 October 08 - about 7pm. Exit from Minskaya Street onto Kutuzovsky Prospekt, direction city centre. There's a traffic jam on Kutuzovsky in the opposite direction, but towards the centre the road is empty.
Suddenly a police car blocks the exit to give some Russian fat cat a clear road to his Rublevka [pricey western Moscow residential area] house. Nothing special. As usual, everybody should wait patiently.
But there's something unusual. An ambulance with its sirens blazing is approaching the exit from Minskaya Street. Everybody gives way, so that the ambulance quickly gets to the head of the queue of halted cars. But at the end, the cop keeps blocking the way as if there's no problem.
That's the message we get from the authorities: die, scum, the boss is in a hurry.
The ambulance driver got the message. And in order not to be too provocative, turned his siren off and waited the usual 20 minutes along with everyone else. I've cut the video - who would endure 20 minutes of just waiting?
Sorry for the poor picture - I'm not used to filming on mobile phone."
Other webusers give similar examples.
"Piligrim":Firefighters told me once that they got an emergency call and set off to the site of the fire. But at the exit to the Novy Arbat Street they were blocked by the police who were keeping the road clear for some "civil servant". The policeman's answer to their request fire was quite simple: "I have eight bullets in my gun. Seven are for you and the last is for myself". So they waited until the power guy passed by. Naturally, they'd informed their dispatcher and another fire engine was sent, but it arrived too late."
"Bogomyako":Saturday April 19 2008. We were driving along the Neva river embankment in Saint Petersburg. Halfway between the Fontanka River and Liteyny Bridge I noticed that the road was free in our direction, but there was a traffic jam on the other side moving very slowly. An ambulance drove through the jam with the alarm on, and behind it drove the cortege of "Aunt Valya" (St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matvienko). A voice from car cried out: "Hey, doc, are you deaf!? Out of the way!"