Belarusian drivers want end to forced roadblocks to nab speeders

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MINSK, March 17 (RIA Novosti) - Belarusian drivers have started a petition to force the traffic police to stop blocking roads with civilian vehicles in order to catch speeding drivers.

The move was prompted by a car accident near Minsk on March 2, when Belarusian traffic police chasing a drunk driver decided to set up a make-shift roadblock by lining civilian vehicles up across the highway.

The driver, going at a speed of 112 mph (180 km/h) smashed into the cars, which contained half a dozen people, including a three-year-old girl. Luckily no one was killed, although several people were injured. Police had not warned the passengers that a speeding car was approaching.

Yury Pashkevich, the driver of the car worst hit in the accident, said the traffic police had used methods like that for quite some time.

He said the drivers wanted "the Belarusian Constitutional Court to make the necessary amendments to laws and manuals, instructions and regulations to prevent law enforcement agencies from using such techniques."

Pashkevich also said a criminal investigation had been opened on March 14 into the incident.

Alexandr Mendelev, the head of the Belarusian traffic police service, has officially apologized for the incident and promised to turn all case materials concerning the road accident over to the Prosecutor General's Office.

The traffic police officers taking part in the chase have been suspended from duty until proceedings are over.

Belarusian Interior Minister Vladimir Naumov has recognized that the officers acted unprofessionally and apologized to those injured.

He has also reprimanded a number of officials, including Mendelev, and fired the head of the Slutsk (in the Minsk Region) traffic police, as well as a number of other traffic officers.

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