More Discontent in Russia as Truckers Strike
Rahvusvahelised uudised 28 Mar 2017  EWR
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Protest organizers say 10,000 trucks will block roads and disrupt traffic across the country. 28 March 2017
A nationwide strike by Russian truck drivers began yesterday, marking the biggest protest yet against a controversial toll on heavy vehicles.

Organizers said truckers planned to strike in at least 70 Russian regions, and claimed more than 10,000 trucks would disrupt traffic on major roads, The Moscow Times reports.

The strike came a day after anti-government demonstrations hit Moscow and many other cities in what some observers called the most serious political protest in years.

Trucks were parked on the shoulders of highways near large cities “in what looked like preparations for roadblocks,” according to The New York Times.

A first wave of truckers’ protests broke out in December 2015 after the toll, dubbed “Platon,” took effect, forcing the government to delay full implementation of the system. Fees collected from heavy vehicles using federal highways are supposed to fund repairs to the country’s roads, RFE/RL reports.

Now truckers are angry at the scheduled 25 percent rise in fees that comes into effect in April.

Some planned to actively block roads, while others pledged to leave their vehicles parked in columns along the side of roads in major cities.

Strike organizers have been detained in St. Petersburg, Krasnodar, Chelyabinsk, and Stavropol, The Moscow Times says.

• The Platon toll system is managed by a company owned by a son of oligarch Arkady Rotenberg.

• Truckers also protested in November on the first anniversary of the implementation of the tolls, RFE reported.

• The tolls are expected to raise $700 million per year for infrastructure maintenance, but truckers claimed the money is either stolen by Platon executives or diverted to other state budget needs.

• The toll will force heavy vehicles to pay for some of the road damage they create, as has long been done in the United States and Europe, a transport specialist at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics told U.S. National Public Radio in 2015.

(Compiled by Ky Krauthamer)
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