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Russian motorists stuck in massive jam for days after heavy snowfall

Thousands of trucks and cars have been stuck on a major highway, some for more than two days, in a traffic jam dozens of kilometres long caused by heavy snow northwest of Moscow, Russian media reported on Sunday.

Police in the Tver region said field kitchens were operating on the road, but many drivers complained supplies never reached them and they were running out of gasoline to keep their engines running and heating on in sub-zero temperatures.

"Drivers help one another and that's it, the problems are on the side of the authorities, there are no gasoline tankers, no water, nothing, we are just stuck here," a truck driver who identified himself as Sergei told Rossiya 24 TV channel.

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Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev dispatched Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov to Tver on Sunday for a meeting on the situation, and Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin was ordered to report to Mr. Medvedev on Monday on measures to end the jam and help stranded motorists, Mr. Medvedev's spokeswoman said.

Reports put the length of the traffic jam at between 40 and 200 kilometres at different times on Sunday. One man told the state broadcaster he had advanced one kilometre over the previous 24 hours. "The reach of the traffic jam at present is no longer than 55 km and is gradually falling," Interfax news agency quoted a police official as saying on Sunday evening.

Russian authorities have been accused of sluggish responses to weather-related problems including deadly wildfires in 2010 and flooding in the south this summer. Officials are jumpy about their jobs after President Vladimir Putin's dismissal of the regional development minister in October and the defence minister last month.

The M-10 highway links Moscow with Russia's second largest city St. Petersburg, some 700 kilometres northwest of the capital and stretches on to the border with Finland. Russia's roads have been the butt of criticism since Tsarist times and its infrastructure has been plagued with problems since the Soviet era, when defence spending was high at the expense of roads, housing, health care and other civilian needs.

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