Staunton, April 5 – There are three signs that the long-haul truckers’ strike may succeed in forcing the Russian authorities to back down on the Plato system that takes money out of their pockets via the imposition of special fees for the use of highways and puts it into the hands of a Putin ally.
First, the strike is spreading from its original bases in Daghestan and several major Russian cities to ever more regions of the country, despite heavy-handed harassment by the siloviki (rusmonitor.com/protesty-dalnobojjshhikov-okhvatili-vsyu-stranu-ehkspert-ob-itogakh-pervojj-nedeli-stachki.html).
Second, in some places, the truckers are getting support from other groups in the population, with merchants in Makhachkala among the most prominent to join their complaints about the irresponsible behavior of the powers that be (kavpolit.com/articles/platon_protiv_vseh-32872/).
And third, and possibly from the regime’s perspective, the most important is that the strike is beginning to hit the general population now that the truckers aren’t delivering food and other goods to the cities, thus adding to the population’s woes (rusmonitor.com/protesty-dalnobojjshhikov-okhvatili-vsyu-stranu-ehkspert-ob-itogakh-pervojj-nedeli-stachki.html).
It is, of course, possible that the Kremlin will be able to repress the strikers, find enough strike breakers to undermine the truckers’ solidarity, and even turn the tables on them with its propaganda channels. But the strikers are a more determined lot than many who take part in pro-democracy protests; and they can only be encouraged by where they are now.
What has not happened yet but what should is for other opponents of the Putin regime to show understanding and solidarity with the truckers rather than see them as engaged solely in a narrowly economic form of protest. (On that, see Leonid Gozman’s remarks as summarized in windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2017/04/for-russians-plato-no-longer-just.html.)