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Analysis & Opinion
By Tai Adelaja

The Official Car By Tai Adelaja Top state officials by and large love everything made in Russia, even if this sense of national identity and patriotism is not always reflected in their ultimate choices. With cars, for instance, most government officials appear to shun locally products. Instead, many officials prefer to drive Mercedes-Benz, Lexus and Porsche, ministerial income statements released on Thursday show. Very few state functionaries miss AvtoVAZ products, or even the hulking ZIL Soviet-era limousines that transported Communist Party bosses from the time of Leonid Brezhnev to Mikhail Gorbachev’s era.

If the type of car a Russian state official likes to drive is a good measure of patriotism, there are no officials more patriotic than Russia's two paramount rulers, President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Medvedev owns a 1948 GAZ-20 Pobeda, as well as a 1962 GAZ-21, while his wife owns two parking spaces and a 1999 Volkswagen Golf, according to their income declarations published on the government's Web site. Putin apparently owns two vintage Volga cars and a Soviet Skif trailer. In 2009, Putin, who usually travels in dark Mercedes limousines, bought the Lada Niva to show support for the country's crisis-hit auto industry – only to later reveal that it had been equipped with a German engine.

However, others’ preferences appeared skewed in favor of foreign-made products. Federation Council Senator Suleiman Kerimov, a billionaire from Dagestan, declared a Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport supercar, estimated to cost more than $2 million. Kerimov also owns a Mercedes-Benz S600, while his spouse has three cars, including a Mercedes-Benz S600, a BMW 750Li and a Mercedes-Benz S500. By contrast, Andrei Guriev, a senator from the Murmansk Region who was Russia’s richest senator last year, has no personal cars. However, his wife loves Rolls-Royce – she has four of them – in addition to a Land Rover, a Mercedes-Benz, a pair of Polaris Sportsman ATVs and one Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

Close on the heels of Guriev's wife is 42-year-old Senator Dmitry Ananyev from the gas-rich Arctic region of Yamal. His fleet of personal cars include a Lexus LX 570, a Land Rover, a Range Rover, Mercedes-Benz GL450 4Matic, Mercedes-Benz GL 500 4Matic, Mercedes-Benz S500 4Matic and a Porsche Cayenne Turbo. Ananyev and his brother Alexei Ananyev, the chairman of the board of Promsvyazbank, were rated one of Russia's wealthiest business families last year, and he also owns a Mercedes-Benz Viano minibus.

In Putin's cabinet, only Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Khloponin can give the Russian senators a run for their money. Khloponin, who is also the presidential envoy to the North Caucasus Federal District, owns a Bentley Arnage R, estimated to cost $509,700, a Jaguar Daimler, a Mercedes-Benz CL 65 AMG and a trailer for transporting his motorcycles. The family fleet of First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov is a bit more modest, comprising a Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz S350, Mercedes-Benz S500, Mercedes-Benz S-class W221 and a Ford Hymer Camp Motorhome. But, in a rare mark of distinction, Shuvalov also own a Soviet-era Zil limousine and a VAZ 2101 Kopeika Communist Classic car.

Like the Shuvalovs, the family of Natural Resources and Environment Minister Yury Trutnev owns a Porsche Cayenne Turbo, Maserati Granturismo S and a Volkswagen Touareg. To top it all, Trutnev's family also owns a Polaris ATV with a Bombardier INC snowmobile. The couple added a Nissan Patrol to their fleet this year, Vedomosti reported on Friday.

Medvedev has made the fight against corruption a hallmark of his presidency, and at his insistence government officials have started filing annual income declarations, although the figures provided by some officials have been criticized as false. Last week, Medvedev submitted the anti-corruption bill to the State Duma meant to toughen the requirement that government officials declare their sources of income when they buy big-ticket items such as houses and cars, Vedomosti reported. Under the provisions of the bill, officials would have to publish information about their sources of income for purchases greater than three times their yearly family income on the Web sites of their department or ministry, and they would also be subject to disciplinary action for overly expensive purchases.
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