Russian President Vladimir Putin to cut motorcades

Dmitry Medvedev's motorcade heads for his inauguration in Moscow's Kremlin on 7 May 2008 Moscow motorists are sometimes kept waiting for up to an hour as Russia's political leaders head to work in the morning

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Russia's President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev have said they will work from home more to cut the disruption caused by their motorcades in Moscow.

Every time top officials travel across town police close the roads, forcing drivers to wait in long traffic jams.

Recently, motorists in the capital have begun to show their displeasure by honking their horns.

The president and PM will now try to work at home or travel by helicopter.

View from Moscow

Most weekday mornings at about 0900, Rublyovskoye shosse, the road connecting Moscow with its affluent western suburbs, goes eerily quiet.

There's lot of traffic, but it's all kept back. Police officers position themselves on the curb every 100m. Everyone knows what it means: "shishki" (the big shots) are coming.

The roads surrounding the empty avenue quickly become clogged with cars for kilometres.

Seasoned observers (and for the want of anything to do, you quickly become one) try to guess the rank of the passenger depending on the number of black shiny cars in the cavalcade.

Moscow drivers are not shy in expressing their dismay. As they wait for up to half an hour, one by one the honking starts. Soon it's a roar of claxons. Then it dies down - everyone realises this won't open up the streets for them.

Finally, with a flash of blue sirens, the cars swoosh by and police give the go-ahead to the mere mortals.

It all gets repeated in the evening, or even in the daytime if top officials decide to move from one office to another - or an equally big shot from abroad needs to be met at the airport.

Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for Mr Putin, told the Interfax new service: "The president is minimising his meetings in the Kremlin and is preferring to hold them in [his residence in] Ogaryovo to avoid disturbing Muscovites.

"There is no substantive difference - if the meeting does not require any kind of ceremony, it is held in the suburban residence."

Blue buckets brigade

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev is said to be planning on using his helicopter more often to free up the roads.

His decision may have been sparked by a visit to St Petersburg over the weekend, where angry motorists directed a barrage of car horns at his motorcade and made what were reported to be rude gestures.

It is not only Russia's two top politicians who have road privileges, but a host of other senior figures as well.

Some business leaders, state officials and MPs are allowed to drive with a blue light on the roof, giving them the right to cut through traffic.

The practice spawned a protest movement known as the "blue buckets", where people stuck buckets to the roof of their cars to imitate the lights.

Earlier this month Mr Putin vowed to cut the number of people afforded the privilege, said to number about 900.

Moscow residents gave their thoughts on traffic jams

In an interview with Russia's NTV television network, he said he had heard motorists honking their horns as his motorcade went past.

"I regret and extend my apologies for the inconvenience, I truly feel bad about it," he said.

BBC Russian correspondent Oleg Boldyrev says this is a long-running problem that will not be easily solved by the president and prime minister avoiding going to the office as there are hundreds - if not thousands - of officials across Russia who enjoy their road privileges and may not be willing to follow the Kremlin's example.

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