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.

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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.

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“‘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.

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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:

Ilyushinites: “Leningrad’s builders are being made homeless”

“Ilyushinites” Move to Tents in Front of the Smolny to Protest Evictions
October 20, 2014
paperpaper.ru

Residents of Ilyushin Street, 15, which has been in the process of resettlement since 2007, will begin an indefinite hunger strike in front of city hall today. They plan to set up tents in Smolny Garden and stay there until Petersburg authorities solve the issue of their building.

Recently, four families have been evicted from the building. As Olga Baranova, a resident of Ilyushin Street, 15, recounts, bailiffs broke into the flats, made an inventory of the things in them, then changed the locks.

“We live in the corridor, which is not heated. We have nowhere to return. They threw out all our things: our sofa, our blankets and pillows, our clothes. Leningrad’s builders are being made homeless.”

ilyushinites picket

An Ilyushinite picketing Nevsky Prospect in late May of this year. Her placard reads: “Leningrad’s builders are being made homeless. Ilyushin Street, 15, building 2.”

The house at Ilyushin, 15, was built as a dormitory for employees of Glavleningradstroy, a Soviet construction enterprise. In 1991, it was privatized by the firm Fourth Trust, of which the residents were unaware, but in the 2000s the company demanded that the residents buy back their flats or vacate them. City hall offered social housing to the “Ilyushinites.” Several families agreed to the offer, but some residents have refused to leave the building.

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The Ilyushinites went on hunger strike in the winter of 2013, as shown by the local affiliate of REN TV in the following report, which also makes it clear that the Ilyushinites refuse to vacate their building not on a whim, but because twenty years ago city hall bureaucrats had promised them title to their flats, and they now claim that the Smolny has offered them only temporary, not permanent housing, meaning they fear they could end up homeless again within a few years.

According to reports from other Petersburg grassroots activists, three Ilyushinites were detained by police yesterday as they tried to set up tents across the street from the Smolny, Petersburg city hall. They have been charged with disobeying police officers, a misdemeanor.

Before gubernatorial and district council elections in September, the Smolny had promised to solve the problems of the Ilyushinites. Now that the freest, fairest elections on planet Earth are successfully past, city hall has apparently forgotten its promises.

Photo, above, courtesy of BaltInfo