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Russian parliament deprives MPs of driving privileges

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MOSCOW, January 24 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's upper house of parliament, the Federation Council, has passed a law stripping members of parliament of the right to display special government license plates on their cars.

Until recently, MPs have been able to drive both their personal and official cars with license plates displaying an enlarged Russian flag.

The plates, which were the equivalent of a diplomatic passport for cars, gave their drivers priority on the roads, unofficially enabling them to avoid traffic police checks and granting them parking privileges.

The lower house of parliament passed the law in its third reading January 12.

Four hundred and thirty State Duma deputies backed the bill, well above the 226 needed. Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov and his six deputies, representing the pro-Kremlin party United Russia, introduced the bill.

Re-registration of all cars with special license plates and flashing lights should be completed by February, reducing the total number of registered flashing lights to 977 from 7,500.

Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov called on colleagues to vote for the law, but a number of other senators condemned it, saying it is a farce that will end in some senators having to spend up to seven hours to get to work.

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