Moscow police said initial investigations indicated the driver had fallen asleep at the wheel, swerving into pedestrians near the Kremlin. Seven people were injured, including two Mexicans visiting the city for the soccer World Cup, which Russia is hosting.
Russia, increasingly isolated on the world stage, is keen to use the tournament to project an image of stability and strength.
Authorities have vowed a safe event, and any security incidents involving fans could jeopardize Russia’s efforts.
Video of the incident posted on social media showed a yellow taxi pull sharply out of a line of stationary traffic, accelerate and mount a narrow pavement, knocking over several people.
The taxi driver, whose license was issued in the predominantly Muslim ex-Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan, according to the Moscow traffic management authority, said he had accelerated by accident after working a 20-hour day.
“I regret very much… I wanted to go home afterwards, to have a sleep,” the driver said in a video published by Moscow police.
Just “fell asleep?”
A criminal investigation has been opened, police said. A court will hold a sentencing hearing on Monday, TASS reported.
The U.S. State Department on Friday updated its travel advice on Russia, saying terrorist groups were plotting attacks.
“Terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, and local government facilities,” the travel advice stated.
The Moscow traffic authority said it identified the driver from his license as Chingiz Anarbek Uulu, 28, from the town of Kochkor-Ata in Kyrgyzstan, near the border with Uzbekistan..
An account on Russian social media platform Odnoklassniki for someone with the same name and date of birth as Chingiz was last updated two years ago.
The last video posted on the page depicted chapter 82 of the Koran, Islam’s holy book, which discusses judgment day.