Petersburg Truckers Say No to Plato

Petersburg Truckers Say No to Plato
David Frenkel
Special to the Russian Reader
November 27, 2015

On November 24, Petersburg truckers joined protests against the new levies imposed heavy tonnage cargo trucks known as the Plato payment system, which have sparked unprecedented work stoppages and other protests by Russian truckers nationwide.

<br
ATTENTION! PLATO (a system for charging a levy for every kilometer driven). Did you know that? 1) It went into effect for cargo vehicles on November 15, 2015. This means a 15-30% rise in prices for everything in the Russian Federation. 2) It goes into effect on May 1, 2016, for vehicles with a cargo capacity over 3.5 tones. This means a rise in prices of 10-20%. 3) It goes into effect for passenger vehicles in 2018. Moreover, the motor vehicle tax and fuel excise tax remain in effect. Think hard about this!

Alexander Rastorguyev, leader of the TIGR (Association of Go-Getting Russian Citizens) movement, and Sergei Gulyayev, an ex-deputy of the Saint Petersburg Legislative Assembly, both known for their opposition politics, inspired local truckers to launch a “snail” protest convoy.

gulyayev and rastorguyev
Sergei Gulyayev (left, in black) and Alexander Rastorguyev (right, in yellow vest)

The truckers took off in two separate convoys on parallel streets, Moscow Highway and Sofia Street, at 11 a.m. Shortly afterwards, another group of trucks joined them, increasing the number of slowly moving trucks to three hundred.

The truckers held a spontaneous rally on Sofia Street, where Rastorguyev urged them to keep driving to the Smolny, Petersburg city hall, where the authorities would “listen to them.”

During the rally, a tire was set on fire, an obvious reference to the Euromaidan protests.

The truckers slowly moved onto the Petersburg Ring Road, paralyzing traffic in the streets. The convoy was led by a group of cars plastered with anti-Plato posters. Traffic police regularly stopped the drivers, although no one was detained.

IMG_2704
“‘Plato’ Rotenberg!!! You have aroused an angry driver!!! We demand that the extortionate levy be abolished!!! Driver mutiny”

While the truckers made their way to the Smolny, authorities negotiated with protest leaders. The authorities warned the trucks would paralyze the downtown and suggested that truckers choose six delegates to negotiate with a deputy governor in his office another part of the downtown.

The truckers, however, did not want to elect delegates. They wanted a meeting directly with authorities at the Smolny and as an entire group.

Around thirty truckers finally reached the gates to the Smolny, although they had to leave their trucks on the other side of the Neva River. They gathered around the entrance and waited for officials to come out and negotiate with them. They waited in vain.

The gates to the Smolny, Petersburg city hall
The gates to the Smolny, Petersburg city hall

They stood and talked among themselves for about an hour until police arrived. A police officer demanded they disperse and organize a legal rally instead. Claiming they had not “come for a revolution,” they decided to give the authorities a chance, promising to organize a snail convoy to Moscow if their demands were not fulfilled in the coming days.

IMG_2834

All photos by and courtesy of David Frenkel

Read my previous posts on the new Plato cargo haulage levy system and protests by Russian truckers:

One thought on “Petersburg Truckers Say No to Plato

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s