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Grigory Pasko: Fools and Roads

Fools and Roads – Some Facts from Russian Reality By Grigory Pasko, journalist Story #1 Recently, at a meeting with students of the Far Eastern Automobile Road Institute, the first deputy chairman of the government of the RF, Sergey Ivanov, said: “Toll roads in Russia will certainly be, they unequivocally need to be built”. In so doing he underscored that toll trunk highways “give a strong push to economic development”. And added: “One of the misfortunes in our country consists specifically of bad roads…”

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Photo of Russian road (without fools) by Grigory Pasko

Comment: [Translator’s preface: The great Russian novelist Nikolai Gogol wrote nearly two centuries ago that Russia’s two biggest problems are fools and bad roads.] Ivanov prudently did not start to speak out loud about the second eternal Russian misfortune – fools. And rightly so: he along with Putin, Medvedev, Fradkov, and the rest have already said and done so much…

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Photo of Moscow street from www.logan-club.ru

Story #2 The airlines of Russia will be forced to pass on information about their passengers to the law-enforcement organs. The State Duma of Russia has adopted the relevant draft law in the first reading. In the document is noted that advance access to passenger lists will allow the special services to implement preventive measures to ensure security already at the stage of booking tickets. Increased measures of security on aviation transport have likewise been introduced in recent times in Russia. In particular, passengers are subjected in airports to a personal search, while the air defense forces have received a sanction to destroy passenger airplanes in the event of their hijacking by terrorists.

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A Tu-154 in an all too familiar pose

Comment: The level of honesty and professionalism of the Russian law-enforcement organs is at times such that this measure will hardly help put things in order on aviation transport. Even if passengers start producing autobiographies certified in the organs of the FSB together with tickets when checking in. But the level of security of flights depends to a large extent not on the passengers, but on the condition of Russia’s airliner fleet and the equipment for tracking flights, ground equipment: they have become dangerously out of date in many airports. In my opinion, the operation of such airplanes as the Tu-134 and the Tu-154 needs to be completely prohibited straightaway. Story #3 Member of the chamber Valery Vasiliev proposed legislation (with the establishment of a system of fines) to prohibit children up to 10 years of age from being found outside school and pre-school institutions unaccompanied by adults. Krasnoyarsk Kray governor Alexander Khloponin recently came out with such an idea. He told about this at a press conference, after which the body of the missing five-year-old Polina Malkova was discovered in Krasnoyarsk. Comment: The word “prohibit” is a favorite in the lexicon of Russian government officials. About surveillance video cameras, about putting schools in order, about optimization of the labor of parents. About school automotive transport – about all this the officials don’t even give a moment’s thought. But they’re always ready to demonstrate foolishness at the drop of a hat. How can you possibly obligate adults to accompany their children if adults, as a rule, are working at that time? That is, once again we see an attempt by the state to pass the responsibility for the safety of citizens onto the citizens themselves. Which begs the question – what do we need such a state for anyway, if it doesn’t want to be responsible for anything? Story #4 Deputies of the State Duma of Russia want to resurrect the so-called “druzhinniki” [specially deputized “voluntary” citizen patrols in red armbands, prevalent in Soviet times—Trans.] and endow them with the powers of the siloviki structures, as well as permitting them to use physical force when detaining offenders. They’re planning to consider a draft law “On the participation of citizens of the RF in ensuring law and order” this spring already. It is going to regulate the activities of these militias, Cossack formations and other state civic associations participating in the protection of order and the state border.

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Druzhinniki patrolling Russia’s streets

Comment: This immediately raises the question: who is going to be selecting candidates for the “druzhinniki” and on what principle? And to what extent will these people be adequate and trained, especially in the legal sense? And indeed, why is it that this question has arisen anew when we have a huge quantity of police and special services in Russia? (And for the last sentence to this comment, see the last sentence to the comment to the previous story…).