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Kremlin officials rush to ditch BMWs for Ladas after Putin pushes homebuilt cars

The Soviet-era Russian car brand unveils its latest release in Moscow on August 3: the Moskvich 6, a five-door compact hatchback – Getty Images

Officials in Russia have begun trading their BMWs and Mercedes for Ladas and other Russian cars after Vladimir Putin said they should support domestic production.

Within hours of Putin’s edict, Vladislav Davankov, deputy speaker of Russia’s lower house, posted a video of himself piloting an electric Moskvich-3e.

“It drives pretty well, I think,” he said. “It’s a bit noisy, but overall it’s good.”

Mr. Davankov looked cheerful enough in the black hatchback as he trudged through Moscow traffic in mirrored aviator sunglasses, but he’s used to getting to the office faster.

Russian parliamentary documents revealed that the 39-year-old owns a Mercedes S-450 that accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in less than 5 seconds and has a top speed of 250 km/h.

For comparison, the Moskvich-3e is described as an “urban crossover” with a top speed of 140 km/h.

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‘Buy Russian’

On Thursday, at a gathering of Russian industrialists, Putin told Russian officials to embrace a “more modest” appearance and buy domestic car brands.

Cars roll off the assembly line at the Moscow car factory Moskvich, after production of vehicles under the Soviet-era brand started on November 23, 2022 at the former plant of the French car manufacturer Renault

Cars roll off the assembly line at Moscow’s Moskvich car factory, after production of vehicles under the Soviet-era brand began at the former plant of French automaker Renault on November 23, 2022 – Reuters

Last year, the Kremlin brought back the Moskvich brand after a 20-year hiatus as it tried to ramp up Russian auto production to beat Western sanctions imposed after the invasion of Ukraine, but the Soviet brand’s rejuvenation got less than rave reviews from industry experts, who pointed out that the cars were almost identical to Chinese designs.

Lada, Russia’s largest automaker, also faces Western sanctions and was forced to market last year’s model without a satellite navigation system, airbags or anti-lock braking system.

In June, Maxim Sokolov, head of Russian automaker AvtoVAZ, said labor shortages caused by the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine forced him to employ prisoner gangs. The iconic and unreliable Lada family car is being produced amid a labor shortage due to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

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Yet Mr. Davankov is not the only Russian official to praise Russian cars.

Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of Russia’s lower house of parliament, said this week that he commutes to work in a Russian Aurus sedan and drives a Moskvich-3 on weekends, which he praised as “spacious, economical and reliable” .

And he ordered other MPs to follow his lead.

“Parliamentary deputies will use Moskvich, Lada and Aurus cars,” he said.

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