Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday slashed by almost a half the number of officials allowed to use car sires, in what appears to be an effort to quell public anger over the misuse of blue flashing lights on the country's roads.
According to a decree posted on the Kremlin's website, the number of vehicles with "migalki," as the lights are known, will be reduced to 569 from just over1,000 currently by June 1.
In the run-up to his fraud-tainted landslide March 4 re-election, Putin vowed to bring that number down to just "several dozen."
There has been rising public anger over the migalki, which have come to epitomize the impunity afforded to businessmen and state officials who use them to bypass traffic rules.
The grassroots motorist group Blue Buckets has staged a number of protests agains them. It also runs a database of offending vehicles.
The decision to cut the number of VIP vehicles will "increase road safety" and put a halt to the "inappropriate use" of the sirens, the Kremlin said.
But the oppositon Communist Party criticized the move, saying the cut was insufficient.
"Everything will go back to what it was before unless we get rid of all the privileges completely," Communist lawmaker Vadim Solovyov told RIA Novosti.
The sirens have been involved in a series of high-profile accidents in recent years.
There was uproar in 2010, when two women were killed in downtown Moscow when their car collided head-on with that of a senior executive of Russian oil giant LUKoil.
Witnesses say the executive's car was driving on the wrong side of the road, claims denied by a LUKoil spokesman. No charges were brought after police said they lost the CCTV footage of the accident.