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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 December, 2004, 14:40 GMT
'Santa' keeps Russian drivers in check
'Santa' consults his colleagues
The new recruits lend the traffic police a softer image

Traffic police in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk have forged an unlikely alliance as they try to maintain order on local highways and byways.

Their latest recruit to the cause of road safety is none other than Grandfather Frost, Russia's answer to Father Christmas.

A TV news report has featured officers dressed in full festive garb roaming the city's streets, offering motorists a gentle reminder of traffic regulations in the run-up to the New Year and Russian Orthodox Christmas on 7 January.

Softer image

Russia's traffic police have in the past achieved notoriety for cracking down on even the most marginal violations.

But the new recruits in Krasnoyarsk appear intent on playing the "good cop" in a classic "good cop/bad cop" routine.

Drivers always need to be reminded of traffic regulations, especially in the run-up to New Year
Police inspector Alexei Maskan

While they carry the same whistles and batons as their uniformed colleagues, the highway Santas also come decked out in sweeping red robes and luxuriant beards.

And the changes are not just cosmetic.

Instead of the usual hefty fine, local motorists found to be committing minor offences in Krasnoyarsk over the holiday period can expect to receive nothing more than a leaflet on road safety.

New Year rush

The traffic police say the festive season is exactly the right time for the campaign.

"Drivers always need to be reminded of traffic regulations, especially in the run-up to New Year," police inspector Alexei Maskan says.

"Traffic volumes increase as people try to fit in everything they haven't had time to do over the rest of the year."

Other inspectors say the rush to get things done makes motorists take more risks than usual.

And that's where Santa's appearance on Krasnoyarsk's streets can also play a part.

"After all," says the report, "if a driver smiles, he will be courteous on the roads, which means there will be fewer accidents and a stronger festive spirit."

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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