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Published in Stream:
Russa Update: November 15, 2014
Press by
The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Conflicting Reports about Motorcade Crash Involving Dagestan's President
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Last week on November 10, Ramazan Abdulatipov, the head of Dagestan, a republic in Russia's North Caucasus was in an accident on the  Makhachkala-Kaspiisk highway. Initially Russia state news services reported briefly that Abdulatipov was in an accident but unharmed, then later added that one car in his motorcade crashed into another car in the same escort.

But other contradictory reports, including from Abdulatipov himself are indicating that there was a lot more to the incident than admitted, although Dagestan's traffic police denied the president was in the accident.

LifeNews
, a pro-Kremlin TV station close to intelligence and law-enforcement agencies reported that four cars were involved in the accident -- a Toyota LandCruiser 200, an Opel, a Russian-made Lada-Priora and a GAZelle -- and that Abdulatipov's own armored automobile was struck. Three of his bodyguards and three passengers from other cars were injured, two of them seriously. All were treated in area hospitals.

But Gazeta.ru, in a piece November 11 titled "Abdulatipov's Motorcade Once Again Drives Away from a Road Accident," said Dagestan's traffic police denied that Abdulatipov's motorcade was even involved, saying that a separate "serious accident" took place a half hour after the government motorcade had already passed.

Gazeta.ru learned that the driver of the Toyota LandCruiser 200 was listed at the garage of the government of Dagestan.

Then the Dagestani president's press service said that the president's motorcade was in an accident after the work day. Tamara Chinennaya, head of the administration, said (translation by The Interpreter):

"The crash was of cars in the motorcade which were traveling in front of the car with the head of state. It was reported that according to preliminary information, as a result of the road accident no one was killed and Ramazan Abdulatiopv himself did not suffer."


That was the version that Russian state wire services went with, but LifeNews soon contradicted this by saying Abdulatipov's own car was struck and his body guards hurt.

The Dagestani Traffic Inspection (GIBDD) placed a notice on its website (translation by The Interpreter):


On 10 November at 19:35 at the 10th kilometer of the Makhachkala-Kaspiysk Highwa in the area of the Primorskaya tourist center, the driver of an Opel Astra, who was in a state of alcoholic intoxication, crossed over to oncoming traffic and crashed into a Toyota Land Cruiser 200, after which the Toyota LandCruiser 200 crashed into a VAZ-217030 parked on the side of the road.

As a result of the incident the drivers of the Toyota LandCruiser 200 and VAZ-217030 and also three passengers from the Toyota Land Cruiser 200 and one passenger from the VAZ-217030 were taken to the regional trauma center in Makhachkala.

The road traffic incident occurred a half hour after the Government motorcade passed by.

This already sounded closer to LifeNews' report but LifeNews said the president's own bodyguards were hurt, and the Traffic Inspection was saying the president's motorcade had already passed.

Gazeta.ru obtained a statement from Dagestan's Health Minister Tank Ibragimov who confirmed there were six victims: three of whom were treated in the orthopedic trauma ward, one with a fracture of the femur who was operated on; three others had light scratches and bruises.

Then Gazeta.ru got additional information from the Traffic Inspection which said that besides the Opel, the Toyota Land Cruiser 200 and "a Priori" [i.e. a foreign-made not Russian automobile--The Interpreter] there was a BMW also involved in the crash.

Three of the cars were registered to private persons. The Toyota LandCruiser was registered with the government -- but reportedly had not been accompanying the motorcade. All of this is being investigated; Gazeta.ru said according to sources close to the investigation, police in Dagestan did not leave their desks until 4:00 am Tuesday.

Then the next day, November 11, on his own Facebook page, Abdulatipov himself said that a drunk driver crashed into his motorcade going the wrong way on the highway, and published a picture from the accident scene.

Abdulatipov-crash.jpg

Photo via Facebook page of Ramazan Abdulatipov


Abdulatipov's account (translation by The Interpreter):

Yesterday, after the work day, as always I was riding along the road from Makhachkala to Kaspiysk. There was almost no traffic and suddenly, as witnesses testify, an Opel Astra crashed into the escort's car with a drunk driver at the wheel. On an unlit highway the drunk drive of the car swerved into the lane of oncoming traffic as a result of which a car in my escort crashed into that car. As a result of the accident, several people were injured and are now in the hospital. The main thing is that no one was killed. When I got out of the car, the first thing I did was to order that the victims be cared from and an ambulance be summoned.

Against that sad background, more on what is even more sad. I am concerned that the number of such incidents on the roads of Dagestan is growing in arithmetic progression. In the last 6 years, about 10,000 road accidents have occurred in which more than 3,000 people were killed and 12,000 were injured.

People do not observe traffic rules in many places, including crossing the solid lines. I can say that the motorcade creates an inconvenience but for each person in traffic it is less than a minute of lost time if the rules are observed. I ride all over the North Caucasus and as a rule, people brake and move to the right to allow the motorcade to pass by. I will repeat: this is less than a moment of sabur [Arabic word for "patience"], of patience.


The Dagestani leader took the opportunity to lecture citizens further against disobeying traffic rules and driving while intoxicated

Dagestan's road fatalities may be among the worst in the world, and make up 10% of all the Russian Federation's traffic deaths. But what he's referring to is a particularly sensitive issue for the public in Moscow and other Russian cities -- bigwigs who roll around in fast cortèges, as they are called in Russian (from the French word for motorcade) and sometimes knock over pedestrians or crash into other vehicles with impunity.

In one famous case, when Aleksandr Ivanov, the late son of Sergei Ivanov, chief of the Russian presidential administration, struck and killed a pedestrian at a crosswalk, the charges were dropped -- to general public outrage. When Aleksandr drowned in Saudia Arabia last week, a journalist from Ekho Moskvy who tweeted that "God's justice" was done found himself fired from his job even after apologizing.

This isn't the first time Abdulatipov's escort has been involved in an accident, says Gazeta.ru; last year reportedly his motorcade struck and killed a pedestrian on the federal Kavkaz highway, an incident Abdulatipov confirmed but without providing any details. The police report says that an "unidentified motorcade" struck the person, who was later said to be "homeless" and "jay-walking."

How are we to understand these conflicting accounts? Perhaps Dagestani police wanted to play down anything about the incident that might suggest an assassination attempt and bring further interference from Moscow, but Abdulatipov himself was compelled to give more details locally. The reality is that while the roads are bad in Russia in general and drunk drivers abound, there are also numerous assassination attempts as well.

Abdulatipov, who opposed Yeltsin's decree dissolving the soviets [government councils] in Russia's White House crisis of 1993, was appointed by Putin as acting president in 2013 to replace his predecessor Magomedsalam Magomedov, who was forced to resign after a number of terrorist attacks in his republic. These included a suicide bomber who assassinated the officially-recognized head of the Dagestan Muslim community and the killing of the chief judge of the public. Alarmed, the Kremlin decided to impose further control and reject direct elections for the governor, which Magomedov favored.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick