Ban of Tinted Windows Upsets Russian Drivers and Stars
Drivers are up in arms after Russian police declared war on the dark tinted glass ubiquitous in cars from humble Ladas to limousines, while stars complain they can no longer hide away from their fans.
Under a new law that came into force July 1, police have the powers to remove the number plates of cars that have dark tinting unless the driver scrapes off the protective film on the spot.
Until this week, the worst police could do was impose a 500 ruble ($15) fine.
And Russia's household names are complaining that they are now at the mercy of fans in the jams.
"Farewell, tinted glass. Now everyone is going to be chummy and say 'Beardie went past,'" television and film comedian Mikhail Galustyan raged on Twitter, referring to one of his characters in a sketch show.
"I understand you have to follow the law, but I am categorically against," complained Ksenia Borodina, host of a long-running television reality show, to Life News website.
"As soon as I let down a window, I heard 'Girl, let's get to know each other. Pull over to the kerb!' she confided. "I find it unpleasant, but I can't do a thing about it. The law is the law."
Darkly tinted windows in cars came into vogue in the 1990s and have never really gone away, despite the distinct lack of sunlight for half a year in most of Russia.
The new law is hardly draconian.
It covers windscreens that let through less than 25 percent of light and front side windows that let through less than 30 percent, while other tinted windows are acceptable.
To persuade the public, the police recruited a comedy group called Ural Pelmeny for a public service ad in which a driver lets down a pitch-black window to look outside.
"Take off your tinting. Summer is short enough already in the Urals," they urge.
Police are holding raids, testing cars with light measuring devices.
In a couple of hours, traffic police in Siberia's Novosibirsk region reported that they stopped 261 offenders, with 231 stripping off their tinted film on the spot and 30 having their plates confiscated.
Number plates are only returned once a fine has been paid and the offence rectified.