Staunton, April 8 – As the Russian long-haul truckers’ strike enters its third week with many routes now paralyzed and supplies of some goods in short supply and with Moscow clearly uncertain how to end a work action given the independence and commitment of the drivers, the truckers have gained an ally in what for many might seem an unexpected place.
That has occurred in Tatarstan where a member of the republic parliament introduced a draft bill that would prohibit the Plato system of collecting mileage fees from the truckers on the territory of that Middle Volga republic (.mgorskikh.com/11-economics/2389-v-tatarstanskij-parlament-vnesen-zakonoproekt-o-zaprete-sistemy-platon).
Moscow will undoubtedly deploy the many resources it has at its command to prevent the adoption the measure lest it cost one of Vladimir Putin’s allies of a major source of funding and even more lest it become, as actions in Tatarstan often have in the past, a bellwether for other republics not only in the Middle Volga but in the North Caucasus and elsewhere.
If indeed Tatarstan were to adopt this measure and even more if other non-Russian republics and some predominantly ethnic Russian oblasts and krays were to follow – a step that would be popular in many of them where the truckers’ movement is strong and popular – that would undermine Putin’s much-ballyhooed common legal space.
Even more, it could trigger broader political challenges to the center, with the long-haul truckers’ strike possibly even playing the role that the strikes of railway workers played a century ago in Russia and that general strikes have played in Eastern Europe and the West more generally.
The Kremlin thus has good reasons to be worried as the fall-out from the truckers’ action begins to affect not only the market baskets of ordinary Russians but also the power of the regime itself. At the very least, these risks raise the stakes of the strike and set the stage for a possible showdown in the coming week.