“Are You Freezing?”: Police Crack Down on Protesting Russian Truckers Again

Protesting Truckers Make Political Demands
On Anniversary of Anti-Plato Protests, Police Were Lying in Wait for Activists at Famous Parking Lot in Khimki and Quickly Detained Them; Ambulance Summoned to Courtroom
Dmitry Rebrov
Novaya Gazeta
November 12, 2016

The problems with the “anniversary”—it was exactly a year ago, on November 11, 2015, that Russian truckers kicked off their protest against the newly introduced Plato road tolls system—started long before the D-Day designated by the Association of Russian Carriers (OPR). On November 9, it transpired that the Khimki mayor’s office would not permit them to gather at their old spot under the MEGA sign, the place where trucks had stood parked for nearly six months.

The truckers responded by decided to replace the rally with a series of solo pickets, but problems arose in this case as well. First, the truckers, who had been going to the parking lot and checking it out over the course of the year, were not admitted to the site of their former camp. Arriving twenty-four hours before the start of the pickets, Mikhail Kurbatov, one of the movement’s leaders, discovered signs saying, “Truck traffic prohibited,” and a police squad who forcibly removed him from the parking lot. A video showing the police twisting his arms has already been posted on the web. And on the morning of the eleventh, it was discovered that maintenance services had managed to pile the spot itself with snow, given that the weather was forthcoming.

However, a genuinely cold reception lay in store for the activists.

“People versus Plato!” Photo courtesy of Dmitry Rebrov/Novaya Gazeta

“There will be protest rallies today in twenty-two regions, so there aren’t so many people here. All the activists have gone to their home regions to rock the boat. But Muscovites have bitten the bullet and installed Plato, because it costs to protest, and we are not a united group,” said activist Igor Melnikov, standing next to a blue truck emblazoned with the OPR logo.

He was trying to explain why no more than a dozen people had assembled for the rally.

Melnikov is a Muscovite himself, just like the five regular volunteers who have been helping the Khimki protesters since last winter.

“Not everyone would choose to travel to Khimki in this weather,” Melnikov continued. “That is partly why, in place of the banned rally, it was decided to hold a big rally on Suvorov Square in Moscow on November 12, and restrict ourselves to a small detachment here in Khimki.”

The rally in Moscow has been supported by the Communists.

“What of it? I know who the Communists are, that they destroyed my country. I grew up under them. But that is okay. They can hold the microphone. We’ll live through it!” Yekaterina Bolotova, a perky brunette, put in her five kopecks.

Bolotova, a private entrepreneur, lives in Lyubertsy. She has been in business since the 1990s.

While we were chatting, a grader kept shoveling dirty snow towards the MEGA sign as freezing rain fell.

“There is already more than three of you. What are you doing here?”

A delegation from the Moscow Regional Criminal Investigative Department had arrived to test the waters. Two gloomy figures, both dressed in black, approached us, obviously reluctantly. The larger of the two men showed us his ID: “Oleg Nikolayevich Kuznetsov.” The second man did not show us his badge, but explained the reason for the visit.

“The bosses sent us.”

“Speaking frankly, we’re expecting certain people,” the cops said in a roundabout way. “The people who are going to protest Plato.”

“We are those people. What else do you want?” the truckers unceremoniously informed them.

“No to Plato. I pay taxes for roads. I could give a flying fuck about Rotenberg.” Photo courtesy of Dmitry Rebrov/Novaya Gazeta

The police then withdrew, asking us not to photograph their faces.

“I’m a secret agent. My face cannot be published!” said “Oleg Nikolayevich Kuznetsov” self-importantly.

“Well, if you’re so secret, why don’t you stay at home, since we can’t look at you?” a trucker retorted.

Meanwhile, a paddy wagon and reinforcements were pulling up at the impromptu checkpoint behind them.

“We now have political demands. In addition to abolishing the Plato system, we want transport minister Maxim Sokolov to resign, Prime Minister Medvedev to resign, and the repeal of Article 20.2 of the Russian Federal Administrative Offenses Code, which covers violations at political rallies, because it is insanity. People are no longer able to voice their opinions,” said Kurbatov.

According to the OPR’s official website, the truckers propose leaving only the fuel excise tax intact and scrapping the transport tax. They support judicial reform, including the recertification of all judges. And they want “all embezzlers to face criminal charges.”

Some of these demands are a natural response to the endless jail terms and arrests the once apolitical truckers have faced.  Other demands have emerged in the aftermath of discussions with political activists who regularly visited the protest camp last winter.

Looking for the “Core” Activists

“Are they making arrests?”

“He raised flags on his trucks!”

We dashed through the snowdrifts to the other end of the parking lot, where a dozen cops were packing Sergei Einbinder, an activist with the Interregional Trade Union of Professional Drivers, into a car.

Led by Alexander Kotov, the Khimki protesters had managed to come to an agreement with police spokespeople about joint actions for the first time in a long time. Kotov had once led the resistance, but quickly surrendered, as the Khimki protesters explained, causing general annoyance among the striking truckers. Instead of blocking the Moscow Ring Road and driving a convoy into downtown Moscow, under Kotov’s leadership the protest had bogged down in attempts to slow down the “radicals” and in endless negotiations with federal MPs. Now, apparently, the irritation with Kotov had passed.

“The security forces had pressured Kotov back then,” explained Bolotova,  a Kotov supporter.

She had come to Khimki to establish contacts, but unlike Eibinder, she had immediately gone over to her colleagues.

Bolotova had also been dragged in for interrogations by the Lyubertsy police and Center “E.”

“Today [they’re making us pay] for the roads. Tomorrow, it will be for the air.” Photo courtesy of Dmitry Rebrov/Novaya Gazeta

Similar coercion had led to a break with the group of activists who had fought the Rotenbergs most fiercely, the Dagestanis. None of their members was present at Friday’s rally.

“At the moment, we have lost contact with Dagestan,” admitted Kurbatov. “All our work there was tied to Rustam Mallamagomedov, but after he was beaten up while we were waiting for the [Krasnodar] farmers in a camp near Rostov and then sentenced to administrative arrest in absentia, he was basically forced to give up the cause and go to ground. Currently, we are not even in contact with him.”

Kurbatov added that security forces coerced and terrorized the Dagestani truckers the most harshly.

“Are You Freezing?”

When, an hour later, the truckers emerged from the MEGA mall, where they had gone to get out harm’s way and discuss strategy, to take up their solo pickets, the police amassed in the parking lot reacted almost instantly.

The first to be sent to the precinct were Yekaterina Bolotova and Igor Melnikov. By midday, the security forces had managed to cram all the truckers, all their volunteer helpers from Khimki, and even the journalists, including a crew from TV Rain, into the paddy wagon.

“What we predicted last year has happened. As soon as [parliamentary] elections had taken place, the moratorium on raising rates was lifted. In fact, the government did not even keep its own promise of freezing prices until July 2017. So we decided there was no time to lose, and we have hit the streets, although we were not very well prepared,” said Kurbatov.

By six in the evening on Friday, all the detainees had been delivered to Police Precinct No. 1 in Khimki. But it proved difficult to find out what the truckers had been charged with.

In the morning, the truckers’ attorneys informed us that Sergei Einbinder, who had been detained first, had cut his hands and face to protest the police’s actions.

“After twenty hours at the precinct, they hadn’t even allowed me to see a lawyer or explain what I was being charged with, so I decided to take extreme measures,” Einbinder told Novaya Gazeta by phone.

Earlier, Einbinder had tried to leave the police station on his own after surrendering his internal passport, but police responded by detaining two lawyers that had been provided for him by the Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK). The two lawyers, Vitaly Serukanov and Artyom Khemelevsky, have already been released. The journalists taken down to the precinct with the truckers were released the same day. No arrest reports were filed against them nor were they subjected to additional questioning.

By Saturday, it had transpired the truckers involved in the protest had been charged with disobeying the police (Article 19.3 of the Administrative Offenses Code) rather than for violating the rules of public rallies (Article 20.2).

Elena Filippova, press secretary for the truckers, who was detained along with them, related what conditions have been like for the activists at the police station. According to her, the female activists who have been helping the truckers and the truckers themselves slept in separate cells.

“In the women’s cells, the three of us were given one dry mattress, which we could sleep on, and two wet mattresses. We have now just thrown out the wet mattresses. Apparently, they had long been waiting their turn, and such an occasion had presented itself. Girls had shown up at the station: why not torment them a bit? In the morning, one of the cops gleefully asked, ‘Are you freezing?’ We have been allowed to use the toilet only twice in twenty hours, and we had to demand to be given food, which was brought only six hours later.”

Court hearings commenced only at two in the afternoon, and they looked likely to run until Saturday evening.

After numerous requests, Sergei Einbinder was transported from the courthouse by an ambulance crew.

Currently, truckers Mikhail Kurbatov, Vladimir Sinitsyn, Dmitry Lazar, and Igor Melnikov, their assistants Ivan Gushchin and OPR press secretary Elena Filippova, and activist Olga Reznikova, who also was involved in Friday’s protest, are still in police custody.

Translated by the Russian Reader

“Uniting into a Mighty Fist”: Protesting Russian Truckers Found Alternative Association

"Stop Plato! No to Plato!"
“Stop Plato! No to Plato!”

Protesting Truckers Found Grassroots Association as Alternative to Trade Unions
Elizaveta Antonova
RBC
April 30, 2016

Russian truckers, who have been protesting against the Plato system of mileage tolls for the past six months, have founded the Association of Russian Carriers [Ob’edinenie perevozchikov Rossii, or OPR].  The grassroots organization will defend the interests of truck drivers and fight to have Plato abolished.

On Saturday, the Association of Russian Carriers (OPR), established by protesting long-haul truckers, held its founding congress at the Lenin State Farm in suburban Moscow.

Shortly before the congress opened, law enforcement stopped letting delegates park their cars in the farm’s parking lot. When RBC asked what the grounds were for not letting the cars into the parking lots, a traffic policeman said he was concerned for the safety of “people strolling and children.”

According to the event’s organizers, the congress brought together around three hundred drivers from thirty-one regions. Delegates from at least forty-three regions of the country have joined the OPR.

Many of the regional drivers who came to the congress expressed a desire to speak their minds. Most of them said establishing an organization to defend their interests and uniting “into a might fist” had been long overdue.

“Plato was the trigger. It provoked us, but it had long been time to unite. You can break twigs individually, but that won’t work on a broom,” said one of the drivers who spoke at the congress.

“The number of people living below the poverty line has been increasing. We live in poverty in the most resource-rich country in the world while the people in power stuff their pockets with money,” complained Maria Pazukhina of Murmansk. “The transport sector is the economy’s circulatory system. The welfare of the entire country depends on it.”

Congress delegates adopted a charter for the grassroots organization and chose a chair, Petersburg truck driver Andrei Bazhutin, a leader of the protest camp in Khimki and a coordinator of the movement against the Plato toll system.

The OPR’s main objectives are ensuring the development and prosperity of the road haulage business, generating favorable work conditions for its members, defending their rights, and representing the common interests of members in governmental, non-governmental, and international institutions.

The extant professional drivers’ associations did not solve the real problems of truckers, Bazhutin told RBC as he explained the idea of founding their own grassroots organization.

According to another OPR organizer, Rustam Mallamagomedov, the drivers had decided to found a grassroots organization because many of the truckers were self-employed and a trade union did not suit them.

No one is going to march on Moscow with pitchforks: the OPR will act within the law, said Bazhutin. In particular, according to him, the association of carriers will be looking for legal inconsistencies in the Plato system.

The OPR will be guided by principles of independence from political parties, and decisions will be taken collectively. It will establish a system for coordinating with the authorities and providing legal aid to carriers. The truckers also plan to build a common transport and logistics system.

After the congress, the founders of the grassroots organization will submit registration papers.

The truckers applied with the Moscow mayor’s office to hold a rally of up to a thousand people on May 1, but were turned down all three times, Bazhutin told RBC.

Moscow authorities rejected the first application on the grounds it had been submitted too early.  The second and third times, the mayor’s office explained its rejection of the appliccation by the fact that many events had already been scheduled for May 1 in Moscow as it was. The truckers were supported by the Presidential Council for Human Rights. Its chair, Mikhail Fedotov, asked Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin not to turn down the truckers’ application to hold a rally. The support of the Human Rights Council, however, did not succeed in helping the drivers get permission from the authorities.

The truckers are now planning to join one of the trade unions at the May Day march, Mallamagomedov noted. He refused to specify whom the big rig drivers would be joining so the authorities could not prevent them from doing so.

What the Truckers Have Achieved
The Plato toll collection system for trucks over twelve tons driving on federal highways was launched on November 15, 2015. Its introduction provoked numerous protests by truck drivers in various regions of the country, including Moscow Region.

Since the protests kicked off, drivers have succeeded in winning a number of concessions from the authorities. In particular, the president signed a decree in December that considerably reduced fines for non-payment of truck tolls on federal highways. The fine for the first violation is now 5,000 rubles [approx. 66 euros]; for repeat violations, 10,000 rubles. Previously, the fines for non-payment of road tolls were 450,000 rubles for the first violation, and a million rubles for repeat violations [approx. 6,000 euros and 13,000 euros,  respectively].

In February, the government extended the discounted rate for truck travel in the Plato system. It was assumed that from March 1, 2016, to December 31, 2018, the rate would be 3.06 rubles a kilometer, but later it was decided to extend the discounted rate, which is currently 1.53 rubles a kilometer. The discounted rate will be valid until a special decision is made. In addition, the rate will not be indexed to the rate of inflation until July 1, 2017.

In April, the government approved the draft law “On Amendments to the Tax Code,” which, if enacted, would deduct the sum of payments already made for heavy freight haulers registered in the Platon system from the transport tax paid by their owners. The government will soon send the bill down to the State Duma.

Translated by the Russian Reader. Thanks to Victoria Lomasko for the heads-up. Photo courtesy of anatrrra. Please read my numerous previous posts on the months-long protests by Russian truckers.

“I’m Very Tired of the Sense of Insecurity”: How the Russian Truckers’ Strike Has Gone Indefinite

“I’m Very Tired of the Sense of Insecurity”: How the Truckers’ Protest Has Gone Indefinite
Olga Rodionova
paperpaper.ru
March 3, 2016

The nationwide strike by Russian truckers officially wrapped up on March 1, but Petersburg drivers have continued to maintain their makeshift protest camp outside the MEGA Dybenko shopping center [in the city’s far southeast]. They have declared their campaign against the new Plato mileage tolls system indefinite.

Nearly all of the drivers who have driven their trucks to MEGA Dybenko are individual entrepreneurs. After the innovations wrought by the Rotenbergs, business has become unprofitable for the truckers. Why have those who work for themselves decided to go on protesting instead of hauling freight? Olga Rodionova put together the following portfolio of photographs of truckers and their statements for paperpaper.ru.

Dmitry, 42, individual entrepreneur. Has been hauling freight since 1997. The past five years has been hauling containers around the city, but sometimes takes loads to Karelia. Married with a 16-year-old daughter.

“Have you seen the roads in this country? I have been paying taxes for many years, the roads have not got better, but now I have to pay even more? One wheel costs me 20,000 rubles [approx. 250 euros]. Have you seen how many wheels I have on my truck? If I pop a tire in a pothole, whom can I blame? Nobody! No one has ever got any compensation from the highway services or the government for breakdowns caused by the poor state of the roads. We just pay and pay. I have sometimes left at five in the morning to avoid traffic jams. While I picked up the load, got it unloaded, and then returned the container, it was already eleven in the evening. Sometimes there is no point going back, and I’m away from home for three days at a time. Many of our guys say there is no point in striking, that nothing will change, but I’m very tired of the sense of insecurity in all parts of life. It’s important to me to be here.”

Arkady, 54. Owns his own truck. Has worked in heavy freight haulage since 1983. Is a teetotaler. Has driven round the entire country: the farthest he has ever driven was Blagoveshchensk. Hauled “Cargo 200” loads during the war in Afghanistan.

“Where are the ruts deepest on multi-lane highways? In the left lanes! But we are obliged to drive in the right lanes. The roads in Russia are bad, because funds for road construction are embezzled and roads are not built to technical specss. But they put the blame on us, saying the trucks are to blame for everything. [Answers his telephone.] Hello. Yeah, we are doing a bit of striking. You come with Dima. He can climb around on the rigs.”

Vadim, 45. Owns his own truck, a 2000 Volvo. Previously drove a KamAZ. After his house was destroyed by fire, rebuilt it with his own hands. Married with two daughters.

“Plato has only one office in Petersburg where I can get a mileage recorder installed, but they don’t have them in stock! Meaning I couldn’t use Plato even if I wanted to. The mileage recorders were doled out to the major companies, while we, the midsize companies and individual entrepreneurs, are being squeezed out. To be able to get onto the road and work without paying a fine, I have to travel hell knows where to a computer terminal on Fermskoye Highway [in the far northwest of the city] and waste time and money. But there is no guarantee the terminal won’t freeze or just won’t be working. There is no point in talking with the people who work there: they are clerks who don’t decide anything. It’s like trying to agree with a highway patrol inspector about changing the traffic rules.”

Valery, 49, individual entrepreneur. Has driven his own MAN truck since 2008. Has been driving since 1987. Got behind the wheel in the army, then worked in the motor pool of a port. Did his army service in Poland, and in 1988 worked as a driver near Chernobyl. Married with two grown children and a 4-year-old granddaughter.

“Cargo haulage rates have not changed for seven or eight years. During that time, only the price of fuel and taxes have gone up. If you work it out, I pay threefold. First, I pay all my taxes. Then, due to them, I end up with less and less money. Finally, I pay again as a consumer at the stores: everything has become more expensive. The Plato system is not the whole matter here. They are just muscling out small business. Before, when there was no Plato, we never gave a it a second’s thought. We drove and drove. There was work, and thank God. I am fifty years old. Who is going to hire me? It is a long way to retirement, and I do not want to sit on my butt working as a watchman.”

Dmitry, 30. Works with an individual entrepreneur as a crew member. Has driven since he was 18. Got his semi-trailer license at 21 and has been driving big rigs ever since. Married with two children.

“Before the crisis of 2007, I had three trucks. I had to sell all of them to pay the mortgage: I was afraid of winding up homeless. I myself am from Ufa. I came here with a load and stayed to support the protest. The wife chews me out, of course, saying I should come home already. But if everyone thinks it doesn’t concern them, then nothing is going to change.”

Vladimir, 49. Has lived and worked in Petersburg since 1997. After his wife’s death, has had to raise his 5-year-old daughter alone. Used to work a three-days-on, three-days-off schedule, driving garbage to a penal colony for recycling. But with a young child to raise, had to change his schedule and in recent years has done intracity freight hauls.

“I don’t expect anything good to happen. I would be thankful if they wouldn’t prevent me from working. The less the government worries about me, the better it is for me. It’s scary, of course. I’m 49. Where am I going to find a job?”

Alexander, 45, individual entrepreneur, owns his own truck. Moved to Petersburg from the Urals in 2013. Married. Has raised six children, four of them his own and two adopted.

“I have an illegal fine against me in the database. I proved in court the fine was illegal, but it is still listed there. The highway patrol tried to keep me from getting here to the camp. I only broke through thanks to a truck driver who helped out. I got him up on the radio, and he covered me from the highway patrol. I have been behind the wheel my whole life. I was even born in a car, in my dad’s Pobeda. I pay taxes and duties. I don’t work under the table. I just want to work in peace.”

Vladimir, 32, individual entrepreneur. Has worked as a heavy-duty freight driver for 10 years, the last three on his own rig. Married with child.

“I was involved in the first protest, too. I met some of the guys there, and some of them here. What do I want? The other guys have said it already. If things don’t work out, I will close my individual enterprise and register for unemployment. They have put so many obstacles in our way we cannot get out on the highway at all. There are no mileage recorders in stock, the Plato computer terminal doesn’t work, and if a trip isn’t registered on Plato, the fine is higher than the money you would make on the load. It is just a legal means of driving us from the market, you see? It’s not even a matter of extortion. We simply cannot work.”

Oleg, 37. Has lived in Petersburg since 2001. Used to drive himself, but around 10 years ago,, registered an individual enterprise and hired a driver to run his rig. Married with two children. Was among those detained by police on the first day of the protest.

“You know, my lawyer told me not to wag my tongue here especially.”

Sergei, 48. Drives a rented truck and works for a limited liability company founded by his wife. Has worked as a driver since 1991. The occupation runs in the family: his stepfather was a driver, and his uncle, a long-haul trucker. Mainly works for three regular clients, hauling furniture, household goods, and construction mixes. Worked for a long time with the Saint Petersburg Theater of Ice, traveling half the country with the company.

“Plato is not the end; it is only the beginning. People say we should raise rates or let the customers pay the tolls. But fuel has again gone up, and spare parts for trucks have gotten a lot more expensive. As a consumer, I suffer from this, too. The wife chews me out, of course. We have no money, the tank is empty. But as a man, I would feel ashamed towards the other guys, so that is why I am parked here. Or rather, that is why I live here. The wife says I should just live here then.”

Translated by the Russian Reader. See my previous posts on the Russian truckers’ strike.

Striking Russian Truckers: A Call for Solidarity

Truck Drivers in Russia Urgently Need Your Solidarity

1_f
Striking Truckers’ Camp in Khimki. Courtesy of antiplaton.info

In Russia, despite crackdowns against independent labour union activists, a group of truck drivers organized themselves in mid-November of last year to defend their labor rights and livelihoods. Their goal is to found a nationwide union of truckers that would be run on a non-hierarchical basis by its members. For the last three months, these truckers have been on strike against a draconian new system of cargo haulage tolls that would make it almost impossible for workers like themselves to earn a living.

On December 3, 2015, truck drivers organized a protest camp in Khimki, a suburb of Moscow, that has served as a coordinating center for all striking truckers. At the moment, around ten thousand drivers are taking part in a nationwide strike, and since February 20 of this year, more than ten other protest camps have been set up in different regions of the country.

The truckers would like to keep striking until the so-called Plato system has been abolished. The Plato system has introduced a new set of tolls for long-haul trucks, and it directly benefits the corrupt businessmen and officials who have profited the most from fifteen years of misrule by Vladimir Putin and his cronies.

Russia has not seen such widespread and serious labor protests since the 1990s. The striking drivers are supported by many other downtrodden groups in Russia. In the course of the protests, new networks have emerged through which the truck drivers have issued other demands such as reforming housing policies and reinstating benefits for pensioners as well as abolishing the transport tax. In addition, many wage earners and other precarious groups have been inspired to join the new union of transport workers or form their own new associations or labor unions.

Despite broad support from the Russian public, the Khimki camp is now in dire straits in terms of resources. Above all, the strikers need financial support for publicizing the strike and providing for their families, as they have no sources of income at the moment.

Therefore, we are asking for any kind of solidarity (media, material or other kinds of support) from the international anticapitalist movement, and labor and trade unions around the world.

If you can and want to help us, please write to: solidarity_trucker@yahoo.com

Yours in solidarity,

The Striking Truck Drivers of Russia

For more information, see my previous posts on the strike and antiplaton.info (in Russian). TRR

Tyoply Stan: Russian Truckers’ Strike Continues

Striking Dagestani trucker. Photo by and courtesy of anatrrra
Striking Dagestani trucker. Photo by and courtesy of anatrrra

Since February 20, Russian truckers have been carrying out a nationwide strike against the newly introduced Plato mileage tolls system, a strike scheduled to end tomorrow, March 1.

Yet another truckers’ protest camp has been set up, this time in the Tyoply Stan district of southwest Moscow.

More than forty regions of the country have been involved in the strike, but Dagestan has been leading the way. The wave of protests started there, and this was no coincidence. Conditions in Dagestan are very difficult for truckers. There are too many taxes, the shipping rates are too low, corrupt officials at different levels demand tribute payments, and so the strike is simply a matter of survival for Dagestani truckers.

The media blackout that has affected all the striking truckers has taken on more rigid forms in Dagestan than in other regions of Russia. As far back as this past autumn, a local TV channel was forced off the air for two weeks after it broadcast a story about the protesting drivers.

Truckers were working themselves ragged as it was, but the Plato tolls system will completely ravage the incomes of their families.

As one trucker remarked, “It’s not our trucks that ruin the roads, but the roads that ruin our trucks.”

And in fact, a good part of the money truckers earn is spent on spare parts and repair.

The truckers need support, and they are open to dialogue. Would you like to ask them a question? Don’t be shy! There are big rigs parked outside the MEGA Centers in Khimki and Tyoply Stan, and you can go there and talk with the truckers any time of day. It is certainly a hundred times more informative and pleasant than watching TV.

P.S. A telltale incident occurred on the subway yesterday as a friend and I were traveling to Tyoply Stan to meet with the striking Dagestani truckers. I was telling my friend about them, and I was not whispering, of course. We were standing next to the doors. Suddenly, we heard the disgruntled shout of an irritated lady, around fifty-five years in age, sitting next to us. She demanded I shut up. I was talking loudly, sure. So noise can be tolerated but not conversation?

anatrrra

__________

Striking truckers' camp in Tyoply Stan, Moscow. Photo by and courtesy of anatrra
Striking truckers’ camp in Tyoply Stan, Moscow. Photo by and courtesy of anatrra
Striking Dagestani trucker  in front of his rig. The placard on the windshield reads, "Plato, put it into reverse before it kicks off." Photo by and courtesy of anatrrra
Striking Dagestani trucker in front of his rig. The placard on the windshield reads, “Plato, put it into reverse before it kicks off.” Photo by and courtesy of anatrrra
Striking truckers chatting with a visitor to their camp in Tyoply Stan. Photo by and courtesy of anatrrra
Striking truckers chatting with a visitor to their camp in Tyoply Stan. Photo by and courtesy of anatrrra

 

An Auchan hypermarket, visible from striking truckers' camp in Tyoply Stan. Photo by and courtesy of anatrrra
An Auchan hypermarket, visible from striking truckers’ camp in Tyoply Stan. Photo by and courtesy of anatrrra

My thanks to anatrrra for letting me translate the preface to their photo reportage and permitting me to reprint several of the photos on this website. The rest of anatrrra’s visit to the striking truckers’ camp in Tyoply Stan can be viewed here. You should also read all my previous posts on the draconian Plato haulage tolls system and Russian truckers’ protests against it. TRR

Victoria Lomasko: Russian Truckers Prepare for Nationwide Strike

Victoria Lomasko
Chronicle of a Troubled Time
The Khimki Truckers’ Camp Readies Itself for Nationwide Strike

lom-tr-1
Truckers’ camp in Khimki

Sergei Vladimirov, a coordinator at the Khimki truckers’ camp: “In the early days, we pushed everybody away and were suspicious of each other. We didn’t know each other yet.”

Andrei Bazhutin, another coordinator at the camp: “In the early days, chaos prevailed, but now the guys are like soldiers. We have figured out what ‘newsworthy’ means and how to give interviews, but the demand on us has been such it is like we’ve been doing this for several years.”

Over the past two and a half months, the truckers have also learned to hold rallies, organize alliances, and produce visual propaganda.

Truckers have been coming from other cities to see the camp firsthand. Two truckers from Kursk were impressed.

“In Russia, people always look up to the big cities. We’re going to tell our people back home, ‘Boys, the whole country is rising!’”

“The days the big rigs stop running: February 20 to . . .”
“The days the big rigs stop running: February 20 to . . .”

Russian truckers will hold a nationwide strike from February 20 to March 1.

The protesting truckers are convinced that toll roads for trucks are just the tip of the iceberg. The new tariff will disrupt the cargo transportation system as it now exists, leaving it to the monopolists.

Nadya, Alexei, and Mikhail. Alexei: “Yesterday we leafleted the truck stops. Many truckers don’t know about the camp in Khimki.”
Nadya, Alexei, and Mikhail. Alexei: “Yesterday we leafleted the truck stops. Many truckers don’t know about the camp in Khimki.”

Many drivers have first heard about the truckers’ protest and the fact they could join it from the Khimki activists. They rarely use the Internet and don’t know any reliable news websites, while the protest has not covered by TV news channels.

Those who have not visited the camp believe the truckers’ protest will peter out. But how can it be expanded if the truckers are unable to appear on TV regularly? The truckers have given us an example of how not to be afraid of speaking out against lawless decisions by the authorities. Don’t they deserve our help publicizing their cause?

Activist: “We’ve been able to convince many truckers to join the strike. There is nothing to lose now: there is no point in breathing in a lungful of air before you die.” Poem on wall behind activists: “He gave a bone to Rotenberg, / And gave money to Plato: / Meaning he bent over like a doggie, / And spread his butt cheeks.”
Activist: “We’ve been able to convince many truckers to join the strike. There is nothing to lose now: there is no point in breathing in a lungful of air before you die.” Poem on wall behind activists: “He gave a bone to Rotenberg, / And gave money to Plato: / Meaning he bent over like a doggie, / And spread his butt cheeks.”

Activists from the Khimki camp have held meetings in many cities at which they shared their self-organizational know-how.

“In the regions, they want to see truckers from Khimki, because they trust us,” say the activists.

Money is needed for additional organizing trips. If you are able to support this important cause, you can find the details of the activists’ bank account here.

Nadezhda: “I have three kids at home. I spend a week at the camp and a week at home.”
Nadezhda: “I have three kids at home. I spend a week at the camp and a week at home.”

Nadezhda, who is from the Vologda Region, used to work as a manager in the housing management system, but left “because the whole business is dishonest.” She owns two trucks. She has been at the camp since day one.

“I’m grateful to Plato for helping me meet such a variety of people here,” says Nadezhda.

Rustam: “After the meeting of all Dagestan’s districts, where we elected our own representatives, the police made calls on all of them at home.”
Rustam: “After the meeting of all Dagestan’s districts, where we elected our own representatives, the police made calls on all of them at home.”

Rustam Mallamagomedov became the interim head of the Union of Dagestan Truckers. Truckers’ unions are now being formed in many Russian regions.

Sergei (Khasavyurt, Dagestan): “I did not come because life was a bed of roses. I realized things would only get worse. The police let my tiny truck through.”
Sergei (Khasavyurt, Dagestan): “I did not come because life was a bed of roses. I realized things would only get worse. The police let my tiny truck through.”

Sergei, a trucker from Dagestan, told me this story in late January. I met him again the other at the Khimki camp. He was cheerless.

“My boss is selling the truck tomorrow. It’s become unprofitable. The Internet is awash with ads for trucks for sale.”

Sergei doesn’t know how he’ll survive. The country is in the midst of an economic crisis and there are no jobs to be had.

lom-tr-8
Visitors to the camp

The camp gets visitors every day. Some folks bring the activists hot food, while others bring them diesel for their trucks. Still other people give lectures and stage improvised concerts. Khimki residents invite the protesters to their houses to take showers and wash their clothes. The majority of those who come to meet the truckers later become regular visitors.

How do you feel about the truckers’ protest? It would be interesting to know your opinion. If you support them, then how do you show your support? If you don’t support them, then why not? What would have to change for you to support them? And what could inspire you to travel to the Khimki camp and meet the truckers?

Translated by the Russian Reader

Originally published in Russian at soglyadatay.livejournal.com

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See my earlier coverage of protests by Russian truckers against the new, draconian system of freight haulage tolls known as the Plato system.

dalnoboy_new
“Trucker, You’re Not Alone! Nationwide Strike, February 20-March 1, 2016.” Designed by Victoria Lomasko, the poster is a stylized map of Russia specifying the kinds of strike and protest actions planned by truckers in particular locales.

A Lesson in Solidarity: With the Striking Truckers in Khimki

Tamara Eidelman
How I Gave a Lecture to Truckers
echo.msk.ru
December 26, 2015

When I informed my near and dear that I had been asked to give truckers a lecture on civil disobedience, their reactions were basically the same.

“They won’t understand a thing.”

“They support Putin and won’t give you the time of day.”

“Update your vocabulary,” someone even said to me.

“Haven’t they left yet?” asked a woman who knows her way around politics quite well.

All these statements were not very encouraging, and in any case I was badly dithering. I knew I was capable of giving interesting lectures, just not to truckers. I pictured burly men who yawned as they listened to my arguments and might even, for all I knew, shout, “Why are we listening to this? We are not interested.”

But it turned out they were interested.

My friend, who had dreamed up this whole thing, and I slowly and painfully made our way to Khimki. The shuttle bus dropped us off on the wrong side of the Mega shopping center, so we had to walk through it. Holiday lights were shining, people were hurrying to do their New Year’s shopping, but no one wondered about the big rigs parked in the parking lot.

And we still had to find the parking lot. We walked a long way through enormous spaces crammed with the cars of happy Mega and Ikea customers. Finally we saw the trucks: the word “lonely” came to mind. They were parked in the back of beyond. True, they had to be visible from the road, not far from the anti-tank obstacles, but who would see them there?

The trucks sported homemade placards reminding Rotenberg that the tire iron was under the seat. There was a New Year’s fir tree with only a few decorations on it. We were looking for Viktor with whom we had arranged the lecture. We were told Viktor was in the “cafeteria.” Oh, they had a cafeteria? The cafeteria was yet another truck, where you could have tea. We discovered only two or three fellows there. The rest had gone off to have lunch, obviously, to a more suitable place for such things. Were they really going into Mega? What did they think about the happily occupied shoppers, who had arrived as it were from another world?

We stood and chatted. It transpired we were not the only guests there. There was a bus driver who had brought a load of passengers to Mega and in the meantime had stopped by to see how things were going. It seemed it was not his first visit. He talked about how much money people who drive buses had to shell out for no reason at all.

Young women who wanted to draw what was happening at the truckers’ camp and post the drawings on Facebook showed up, as well as a woman with a camera. They said it was not their first visit, either, and that there were even old women who brought the lads borscht.

Meanwhile, the guys had started to gather. They really were big and strapping, and I found it hard to picture them listening to the lecture. But as soon as Viktor said the lecturer had arrived, they immediately happily formed a circle round me and listened.

I told them about Parnell and the first boycott in the world, against Captain Boycott, about how the landlords in Ireland had pitilessly raised the rents and complaining was useless.

“It conjures up certain associations,” commented one of the listeners. “Only there is no point in boycotting Rotenberg.”

“Hang on and let us listen. This is interesting,” the others said, stopping him short.

I looked around and could see they really were interested.

I saw I was surrounded not by ferocious wild men, but by attentive listeners with intelligent faces. I continued.

We moved on to Gandhi. The interest grew. The slogan “fill the prisons” provoked healthy mirth. One of the men was told he would be their Gandhi and would go to prison first. Another man asked whether there was not a difference between Russia and India: in Russia, where so many people had perished in Stalin’s camps, it would hardly be possible to fill the prisons. He was told that no one was forcing him to go to prison: he was just being told how things had been in the past. Someone immediately said they did not have to repeat what had already been done, but could come up with something of their own.

We had an intense discussion of what exactly they could come up with. This was the problem. So far they had not come up with anything than blocking the road to Moscow, and even then far from everyone agreed with this plan. The drivers gathered in Khimki were supposedly supported by their comrades in dozens of regions, but the majority was inclined to “wait and see.”

Discussions broke out after almost every sentence. Meanwhile, Shamil, an intelligent-looking Dagestani, and Sergei, a short, energetic man, had joined us. Everyone had his or her say. Someone said it was a pity that his schoolteacher, Raisa Demyanovna, had not talked about things as emotionally as I was.

The conversation became more and more relaxed. When I said that Gandhi had called on his supporters to refrain from sex, everyone gleefully hooted that I was talking about them, that they had long refrained from sex. All of them had very unhappy wives waiting at home, some of whom had threatened divorce. They had no money and their husbands were away from home, so of course you could understand them. Some of the men had gone home, while others said they could not, because “what would the guys say.”

We segued to Martin Luther King. The story of the busy boycott by Montgomery’s Negro population elicited cheers of approval.

“That’s great! They hit them in their wallets!”

Sergei commenced on a fairly coherent account of Gandhi, but he was interrupted and told the “speaker” had just told them about Gandhi.

The questions rained down one after the other. Of course they mainly boiled down to the famous “What is to be done?” We tried to discuss how to break through the media blackout. Some said we had to establish a public television channel.

“Do you have a website?” I asked.

It turned out a site was being created.

Everyone unanimously chewed out Channel One. Everyone wanted more lectures. Everyone was interested.

An hour later we said goodbye. We were asked to come back again, and we promised to do it.

We headed back home, our emotions overflowing. What a joy it had been to converse with completely sane, intelligent, energetic people, to establish a rapport with them, to see the look in their eyes, and hear their questions.

I would love for them to get an answer to the question “What is to be done?” I would love it if as many people as possible went to see them, if they did not feel worthless and abandoned on New Year’s Day, if they won.

By the by, as for the issue of “updating my vocabulary,” not a single truck driver swore even once when I was there.

And the man who asked about Stalin’s camps also asked me why I thought that, unlike in Europe, each new Russian regime wanted to “bend” us. I said there was a really long answer, but I would give the short answer: because we put up with it. Everyone applauded.

Tamara Eidelman is an Honored Teacher of the Russian Federation and a historian.

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Truckers
Anatrrra
LiveJournal.Com
December 26, 2015

Yura, Mikhail, Anatoly, Andrei, and Vitya are all truckers and arrived in Moscow from different cities almost a month ago. After an unsuccessful attempt to paralyze the Moscow Ring Road, they are stuck in a parking lot in Khimki. They can leave if they like, but the police will not let them back. In Khimki, almost all the protesters against the Plato toll payment system are individual entrepreneurs. After making all the various deductions, their take-home income is around 20,000 rubles a month [approx. 250 euros]. If they earn even less, they won’t have enough to feed their families, and some of them have three or even four children. This is their first large-scale protest and coordinating with their brother and sister drivers has not been so easy, because it is a big country and very few of them know each other personally. There were many provocateurs at the beginning, and the know-how of cooperating accumulates only gradually in a new protest arena. “The economy must be changed” is a phrase that you hear them saying along with disappointed remarks about the government and those commentators who depict them as savages. In fact, it is very pleasant and interesting to converse with the truckers in Khimki. They are interested in lots of things and are open to communication. And they need support. In addition to information support they mainly need diesel fuel, 300 liters a day. One Moscow activist showed up with his own canister. Everyone can do this: you don’t have to have your own car. So let’s support the truckers both emotionally and materially!

"Plato came online and the price of bread went up."
“Plato came online and the price of bread went up.”

"Russia's independent media: Russia 24, Channel One, NTV" / Truckers with placard: "No to Plato!"

"Russia's independent media: Russia 24, Channel One, NTV" / Truckers with placard: "No to Plato!"
“Russia’s independent media: Russia 24, Channel One, NTV” / Truckers with placard: “No to Plato!”
"Remember, Rotenberg: the tire iron is under the seat."
“Remember, Rotenberg: the tire iron is under the seat.”
Tamara Eidelman (center; see her account, above) in discussion with the truckers in Khimki, December 26, 2015.
Tamara Eidelman (center; see her account, above) in discussion with the truckers in Khimki, December 26, 2015.
Victoria Lomasko (top right) making a graphic reportage of the proceedings (see below), Khimki, December 26, 2015.
Victoria Lomasko (top right), producing a graphic reportage of the proceedings (see below), Khimki, December 26, 2015.

To see the rest of Anatrrra’s photo reportage, go to her LiveJournal blog.

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Victoria Lomasko
From A Chronicle of a Troubled Time

Compared to A Chronicle of Resistance, which I compiled in 2011-2012, this is a more modest series. I have neither the drive nor the resources to regularly document protests, nor are there inspiring scenes of rallies attended by hundreds of thousands of people, but there are certain kinds of pressure groups I still want to sketch.

What do they have in common?

  • The people involved are self-organized and there is a lack of obvious leaders.
  • The people involved constantly emphasize they are “normal, ordinary people, remote from politics.”
  • They have specific social demands, caused by a violation of their rights.

Notable examples are the protests by residents of the Moose Island (Losinoostrovsky) District of Moscow against the construction of a church in Torfyanka Park and the protest by truckers. The protest camp in Torfyanka and the truckers’ camp in Khimki continue to function.

Andrei, a trucker from Petersburg: "After the New Year everyone will wake up, but the truckers in Khimki will be gone. We need support now." Placards on truck: "No to Plato" and "I'm against toll roads."
Andrei, a trucker from Petersburg: “After the New Year everyone will wake up, but the truckers in Khimki will be gone. We need support now.” Placards on truck: “No to Plato” and “I’m against toll roads.”
Dmitry, an activist from Torfyanka: "The authorities are put too much pressure on people. There is an idea of linking this protest with the one in Torfyanka." Placard on truck: "I want to feed the wife and kids, not oligarchs."
Dmitry, an activist from Torfyanka: “The authorities are put too much pressure on people. There is an idea of linking this protest with the one in Torfyanka.” Placard on truck: “I want to feed the wife and kids, not oligarchs.”
Anatoly, a trucker from Petersburg: "I have two loans, the apartment is mortgaged, and three kids . . . I am not interested in politics: let me work!!!" Placard on back of truck: "Remember, Rotenberg: the tire iron is under the seat."
Anatoly, a trucker from Petersburg: “I have two loans, the apartment is mortgaged, and three kids . . . I am not interested in politics: let me work!!!” Placard on back of truck: “Remember, Rotenberg: the tire iron is under the seat.”
Tamara, a teacher and historian (left): "My acquaintances tried to scare me that truckers were zombies." Man in black hat (right): "They don't even know us."
Tamara, a teacher and historian (left): “My acquaintances tried to scare me that truckers were zombies.” Man in black hat (right): “They don’t even know us.”
 Tamara (left): "Would you like me to lecture about trade unions next time?" Man in white coat (right): "Sure! And for you to dress warmer." Truckers' camp, Khimki, December 26, 2015.

Tamara (left): “Would you like me to lecture about trade unions next time?” Man in white coat (right): “Sure! And dress warmer.” Truckers’ camp, Khimki, December 26, 2015.
Translated by the Russian Reader. Thanks to Anatrrra and Victoria Lomasko for their kind permission to reproduce their work here.