Thousands take to streets in North Caucasus to protest new tax
Аs rallies against the Russian government’s move to raise the toll on the use of highways for heavy commercial trucks continue across the country, about 3,000 long-haul drivers and 2,000 trucks have joined in the protest in the North Caucasus.
The protesters say they are not resuming their work until the government agrees to negotiate with them. Unless the government repeals the tolls, they will demand that it resigns, they say.
Heavy transporters are the main means of bringing goods in and out of the North Caucasus. The longer the strike continues, the greater the danger of an economic crisis for the region.
Police and national guard units have now been deployed to where the strikers have set up camp. The situation is being made all the more unpredictable by the fact that it has received next to no coverage both on federal televisions and local media
The protests in the North Caucasus are part of a larger, cross-Russia – strike by long-haul drivers. The organizers claim it has attracted about 10,000 people altogether.
The toll on use of federal roads for heavy transporters – a scheme known as “Platon” – was first introduced about a year ago. Interestingly, it is a private company, not a government agency, who has been collecting the fees. The company’s owner is president Putin’s close friend Arkady Rotenberg.
Protests against the tax have erupted before. However, the first time they did, just after it was imposed a year ago, they yielded no results for the protesters. This time it may be different, because the protests have been better prepared, more coordinated and have involved a greater number of people.
Support for protesting long-haul drivers has been widely expressed on Russias social media sites:
- “They are the bulwark against a civil war”.
- “Now there’s no doubt that Putin’s 84% approval ratings are a bloated figure.”
- “Someone wrote here: ‘Look what the street protests in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq have led to – a civil war and bloodshed!’ I suggest that we reword the sentence as ‘Look what the government crackdown on street protests in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq have led to – a civil war and bloodshed!”