Staunton, April 14 – In today’s Novaya gazeta, the Moscow paper’s correspondent for south Russia says that Moscow is making a mistake by not dealing with the truckers now because “the longer the authorities ignore the strikers, the more unwelcome questions they will ask.”
Nadezhda Andreyeva says that now the strike is in its third week, the strikers themselves view the cancellation of the Plato system fees as “insufficient.” Her article features a telling truckers’ slogan: “The Long-Haul Truckers are Striking; the Media are Silent. All Truth is on the Internet” (novayagazeta.ru/articles/2017/04/14/72151-otmeny-platona-uzhe-nedostatochno).
Buoyed up by the fact that their strike has lasted so long and that the population has been supportive, even bringing money to them and laughing at Moscow media claims that the CIA is behind them, she says, the truckers are now demanding a wholesale reform of the trucking industry and big improvements in Russia’s historically awful roads.
Many of them have experience in Europe where better roads allow them to travel longer distances more quickly and where weigh stations, something Russia doesn’t have, ensure that they are not overloaded by unscrupulous shippers; and so in the first instance, the truckers say they want improvements that would bring their country up to European standards.
Many are still upset by the government’s failure to keep its promises after their 2015 work action. In response, about 70 percent of the local long-distance drivers aren’t registered with the government and at least that many don’t pay any of the fees that the Plato system has imposed.
The drivers are increasingly suspicious of the government as such, Alekseyeva suggests. They point out that “the government almost every year introduces a new form of tribute” on the truckers because “they are earning well” in the hopes that they will continue to put up with things and remain silent.
“Before the crisis,” one driver said, “our incomes really were good. We invested in out trucks. Now [we] can’t even maintain our trucks in road conditions.” Consequently, he continued, “even if the powers say that Plato has been cancelled, this already will be insufficient.”
That latest device to extract money from the drivers, the trucker said, was only “the last drop. Patience has run out, and I have many other questions for those in power.”