MOSCOW — In a country notorious for poor roads and colossal gridlock, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev admitted Russia outdid itself with an epic 125-mile traffic jam over the weekend after unusually heavy snow left thousands of motorists at a standstill for two days.
Mr. Medvedev called for an investigation into the gridlock, which forced emergency officials to set up field kitchens to feed famished and freezing drivers who became stuck on a major highway connecting Moscow and St. Petersburg.
“Drivers of course should be prepared for the fact that the weather in this country is very, very complicated and can change, and that there is always going to be snow,” he said at a meeting with his deputies. “But here there was no coordination between state structures.”
The monster traffic jam began after eight inches of snow fell in and around Moscow on Thursday – an unusually heavy amount for early winter — followed by an ugly ice storm the next day, catching road crews flat-footed. Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin acknowledged that officials had failed to mobilize even half of the available fleet of road-cleaning equipment.
“At the start of the snowfall, not even a half of the available technical hardware was used,” he said. “Many drivers were stuck without provisions and fuel in the middle of a forest. This is not a European road but a Russian one, a forest road.”
Traffic police say the snarl – which involved some 4,000 trucks and thousands more cars – was at its worst in a rural stretch of Tver region, some 100 miles north of Moscow on the M-10 roadway, one of the busiest in Russia.
Officials said the situation had nearly returned to normal by late Monday morning, but some Russian media reports suggested a new traffic jam was set to form in the evening as forecasters predicted another round of heavy snow.