Ukrainian Traffic Police Officers Confused

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's traffic police were confused about their fate Tuesday, a day after President Viktor Yushchenko said he wanted to disband the 23,000-member traffic police department because of widespread corruption.

Yushchenko left on an official visit to Japan, and it remained unclear whether he had signed an order disbanding the traffic police, which his chief of staff had promised would be ready Tuesday.

A unidentified traffic policeman stands idle near a traffic jam in downtown Kiev, Tuesday, July 19 2005

Interior Ministry officials were not available for comment, but Dnipropetrovsk police chief Volodymyr Evdokimo said "the ministry will dismantle the traffic police within a week."

Meanwhile in Kiev, for many traffic policemen, it was business as usual. They maintained their presence on congested boulevards in downtown Kiev and routinely stopped cars that violated traffic rules. Mykola, a police sergeant who, fearing for his job, gave only his first name, said that his precinct "did not receive any orders to stop operating." "We heard the president's allegations, and many of us disagree. Only a few rotten apples have solicited bribes," he said.

But only few hundred meters down the road, Oleksiy Demyanenko, a constable, decided not to stop a driver for a clear traffic violation. "Didn't you hear? We do not exist anymore," he said.

Kiev drivers hailed Yushchenko's move. "For years we had to bribe them for virtually everything: accident reports, minor speeding, even for completely imaginary violations," a taxi driver said.

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, citing similar problems with corruption, disbanded his country's traffic police after assuming office in the 2003 Rose Revolution.

Source: AP

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