Depressing and Encouraging

This story is both depressingly familiar and encouraging at the same time.   First the depressing bit:

The crash occurred on a beautiful morning Aug. 7 in the Altai region of Siberia. Shcherbinsky, 36, his wife and 12-year-old daughter, along with a neighbor and her son, were heading to a lake for a picnic. Gov. Mikhail Yevdokimov, 48, was on his way to the birthday celebration for a Soviet cosmonaut who hailed from a nearby village. His wife sat beside him in the back seat. Up front were his official driver and a bodyguard.

Both cars were traveling north on the road from Biisk to Barnaul, the regional capital. The road, which is generally straight but hilly, was quiet that morning. There was no oncoming traffic as Shcherbinsky started to make a left turn, according to court records.

The governor’s Mercedes was passing another car and had crossed over the center line when it crested a hill outside Biisk. Shcherbinsky, driving a Toyota, was about 300 yards farther down the two-lane road. He was slowing, turn signal on, and easing into the turn, according to court records and testimony.

Yevdokimov’s driver began to brake about 80 yards from the point of impact, but it was too late. The Mercedes hit the left side of the Toyota and became airborne, then slammed into a birch tree.

Yevdokimov, a former actor and comedian who was labeled the “Schwarzenegger of Siberia” after he became governor of the Altai region in 2004, was killed instantly, as were his driver and bodyguard. Yevdokimov’s wife was seriously injured. None of the five people in Shcherbinsky’s car was injured.

The crash occurred on a beautiful morning Aug. 7 in the Altai region of Siberia. Shcherbinsky, 36, his wife and 12-year-old daughter, along with a neighbor and her son, were heading to a lake for a picnic. Gov. Mikhail Yevdokimov, 48, was on his way to the birthday celebration for a Soviet cosmonaut who hailed from a nearby village. His wife sat beside him in the back seat. Up front were his official driver and a bodyguard.

Both cars were traveling north on the road from Biisk to Barnaul, the regional capital. The road, which is generally straight but hilly, was quiet that morning. There was no oncoming traffic as Shcherbinsky started to make a left turn, according to court records.

The governor’s Mercedes was passing another car and had crossed over the center line when it crested a hill outside Biisk. Shcherbinsky, driving a Toyota, was about 300 yards farther down the two-lane road. He was slowing, turn signal on, and easing into the turn, according to court records and testimony.

Yevdokimov’s driver began to brake about 80 yards from the point of impact, but it was too late. The Mercedes hit the left side of the Toyota and became airborne, then slammed into a birch tree.

Yevdokimov, a former actor and comedian who was labeled the “Schwarzenegger of Siberia” after he became governor of the Altai region in 2004, was killed instantly, as were his driver and bodyguard. Yevdokimov’s wife was seriously injured. None of the five people in Shcherbinsky’s car was injured.

Now the encouraging bit:

Russian authorities are bracing for a wave of protests this weekend as working class citizens intend to drive through cities in convoys to voice their feelings against the country’s chauffeur- driven elite.

Across Russia this weekend, thousands of people are planning to protest by driving in convoy through major cities with slogans including “Today it’s Shcherbinsky. Tomorrow it will be you!” draped on their cars. The case has brought to the boil simmering anger at a two-tier system that allows bureaucrats in chauffeur-driven black limousines to weave dangerously through traffic while other motorists are fined for the smallest misdemeanour.

Shcherbinsky’s supporters in his home city of Barnaul are planning a rally on Saturday. Protests are planned in cities from Moscow to Vladivostok on the Pacific Coast on Sunday. “Every person in Russia understands they could easily find themselves in Oleg Shcherbinsky’s shoes,” said Vladimir Ryzhkov, an opposition member of parliament who represents Barnaul. “People are upset that bureaucrats break the rules and an ordinary person … through no fault of his own, gets four years in prison. That is why there has been such an uproar.”

One bit I disagree with though:

Some say it is a metaphor for Russian society in general under President Vladimir Putin where a narrow class of bureaucrats enjoy increasing power while, critics say, ordinary peoples’ rights are undermined.

Although Putin’s policies have done nothing to help the situation, this is not something for which the blame can be laid at Putin’s door.  A two-tier society where the elite ride roughshod over ordinary people has been a trademark of Russia since time immemorial, particularly during the Soviet years.

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