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Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Wild, Wild East

You'd think that if you choose to be ruled by a proud KGB spy, at least you'd have safe streets. But wait! We know, we know. It would be EVEN WORSE if Putin weren't in charge, right? But the thing is, what does that say about the people of Russia? What are they, a nation of wolverines? If so, do they really belong at the G-8 and UN Security Council tables? And how about the Russians for some hypocrisy, claiming events like these only happen in America and prove democracy is not for Russia. Yikes!

The Moscow Times reports:

It's been a perilous week for city pedestrians, even by Moscow's notorious standards.

A driver in central Moscow ended an argument with three pedestrians Monday by shooting them and trying to flee, a city police spokeswoman said. Meanwhile, police were still trying to establish the identity of the driver of a BMW equipped with a flashing blue light who mowed down a pedestrian on a central Moscow crosswalk Monday, the spokeswoman said.

Monday's shooting happened at around 3 p.m. on the corner of Bolshoi Spasoglinishchevsky Pereulok and Ulitsa Solyanka, near the Kitai-Gorod metro station. An argument broke out between the driver of a Lada and three young men crossing the street near the Moscow Choral Synagogue, after which the driver shot each of them with an air pistol, injuring them but not critically, the spokeswoman said. The driver attempted to flee but was arrested by a police officer in the vicinity, she said. There were conflicting accounts about what exactly prompted the argument, and the police spokeswoman said she had no further details. An unidentified police official told Izvestia that the driver had been in a hurry and driven up on the sidewalk to avoid traffic. "Some young men wouldn't let the car pass, and the driver began to honk his horn," the official said in comments published Tuesday. "The young men didn't react. A squabble turned into an all-out argument. The driver of the Lada pulled out the pistol and opened fire." Two passengers in the car joined the driver in trying to flee on foot after a police car arrived on the scene. The passengers managed to escape, while the driver was detained, Izvestia said. Citing witness accounts, however, Tvoi Den reported Tuesday that the injuries to the pedestrians were merely collateral damage in a shootout between a passenger in the Lada and a passenger in a Mitsubishi minibus. The drivers of the two cars began arguing over who had the right-of-way, and in the ensuing gunfire, one pedestrian was shot in the nose and another in the chest, while a bullet grazed the cheek of the third, the newspaper said.

Pedestrians dance a deadly waltz with cars in Moscow, and with drivers regularly ignoring pedestrians' right-of-way while crossing the street, the chances of being hit on a crosswalk often seem about the same as outside the stripes. Not only do drivers rarely stop for pedestrians, they often speed up to make sure that would-be crossers stay put. Around 30,000 people were killed last year in the more than 200,000 traffic accidents in the country, with 6,000 people killed after being hit by cars, including about 500 children. Road safety officials even say there is a twisted logic to drivers' refusal to stop: They are protecting pedestrians, because the car in the next lane over won't see them and will drive right through the crosswalk.

It is unclear whether this was the logic of the driver of the BMW that hit the pedestrian in the crosswalk Monday on Malaya Pirogovskaya Ulitsa, near the Frunzenskaya metro station. The car was traveling at more than 100 kilometers per hour when it struck the man, who was hurled 15 meters and died on the spot, the police spokeswoman said. The standard speed limit on city streets is 60 kilometers per hour. The car's migalka, the flashing blue light on the vehicles of officials allowing them the right of way in just about any situation, was not switched on at the time of the accident. Initial evidence indicates that the BMW was registered to the Interior Ministry, an unidentified law enforcement source said, RIA-Novosti reported Monday. The city police spokeswoman confirmed Tuesday that the incident had occurred but said she could provide no further details. "The identity of the driver is still being established," she said.

She referred all further questions about both incidents to the city police's Central Administrative District branch. Telephones at the press office there were busy all day Tuesday.

LR: That's to say nothing of the Chessboard killer, of course. Russia, the land with the worst of all possible worlds -- dictatorship and rampant street crime. The ultimate nightmare. How wise the Russian people are to have chosen such a sagacious and prudent leader as Vladimir Putin.


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