Kremlin aide in controversial car crash in Russia

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Russian authorities were Friday probing Friday a fatal road accident in which a BMW carrying a top Kremlin official collided with another car, leaving one person dead and another with broken limbs.

The chauffeur-driven BMW 5 Series carrying President Dmitry Medvedev's envoy in the State Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament, collided Wednesday evening with an Opel Corsa.

It was the latest controversial road crash involving a senior Russian official.

The crash on the Rublyovo-Uspenskoye highway just outside Moscow left the Opel's driver, a 23-year old woman, hospitalised with broken limbs, while the VIP passenger, Garry Minkh, escaped unscathed.

His 53-year old driver however died, said Viktor Khrekov, a spokesman for the Kremlin property department.

Citing preliminary information, Khrekov said that the accident occurred because the Corsa veered into the oncoming lane.

But a report in Russian online newspaper on Thursday quoted the injured woman's father as saying that it was the official's car that drove into the oncoming traffic.

"I have witnesses who saw all of that," the newspaper quoted Alexander Yarosh as saying.

Khrekov told AFP Minkh himself was not aware of the details of the crash because he was napping at the time of the accident but added that his driver had nearly 30 years of driving experience.

Khrekov said the investigation was ongoing and it was too early to pin the blame on anyone. The state-run RIA Novosti news agency also quoted Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev as saying that it was premature to say who was responsible.

"I like to have facts first and only then to draw conclusions," Nurgaliyev was quoted as saying. "There is a need to thoroughly look into this."

Critics say that Russia's dire road safety record is exacerbated by the fact that police and courts turn a blind eye to road deaths involving the ruling elite.

Last February, a chauffeur-driven Mercedes carrying a vice president of oil giant Lukoil collided head on with a Citroen on a Moscow highway, leaving two women dead in the Citroen.

The accident stirred public anger in the country, with the case inspiring protests and even a rap song.

Among the most controversial cases, the son of former defence minister Sergei Ivanov was cleared in 2005 of killing an elderly woman who was using a pedestrian crossing.

© 2011 AFP

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