Russian minister berated for traffic death threat

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A top Russian minister faced a wave of Internet criticism Monday after his driver threatened to shoot another driver in the head for refusing to let his vehicle through in a Moscow traffic jam.

Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu's black Mercedes with a screaming siren and flashing blue lights was filmed over the weekend trying to drive on the hard shoulder on a major Moscow highway during pouring rain and stop-and-go traffic.

Shoigu, the longest-serving minister in the Russian cabinet, was not in the car at the time, according to the emergencies ministry. But the case has highlighted growing public anger over top officials' motorcades.

After failing to pass one driver, a voice from the car shouts at the next car from a loudspeaker on the outside of the car: "Do you want to be shot in the head, you idiot?" and finally goes around the car to press on.

The driver who failed to let the car through managed to film the threat and its license plate through his rear-view mirror.

The clip, uploaded on YouTube has already been viewed over 340,000 times and gathered over one thousand comments. "These are the people's servants. Our lives are not worth a cent for them," said one comment

"Why should we be surprised that everything burns during summer?" said another, in reference to last year's devastating wildfires. "They don't care," said another. Shoigu's ministry is in charge of fire prevention.

Izvestia newspaper on Monday quoted an emergency situations ministry spokeswoman as saying that the minister was not in the car and is "very upset" with the situation and ordered to "remove him (the driver) from work."

Moscow drivers have long detested officials' blue lights which give them privileges in the capital's notorious traffic jams, including driving on the opposite side of the road, endangering people's lives.

Fed up with what they perceive as an unfair and frequently misused advantage, bloggers have even set up online groups to monitor the worst traffic offenders and lobbied for banning flashing lights for the vast majority of officials.

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© 2011 AFP

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