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article imageRussian truck drivers strike against road tax

By AFP     Mar 29, 2017 in World

Hundreds of truck drivers across Russia have stopped working, demanding that the government repeals a controversial transport levy, a coordinator told AFP Wednesday.

The strike started on Monday and will last "at least until April 15," said Mikhail Kurbatov, coordinator of the Organisation of Russian Carriers, one of the union groups behind the country-wide action.

Kurbatov told AFP that 200 truck drivers were striking in Saint-Petersburg and 170 in the Tyumen region.

The biggest number of strikers are in Dagestan in the Caucasus where "95 percent of truck drivers are participating."

Truck drivers have complained since 2015 about a new fee-collecting system called Platon created by the government to collect a new levy on road wear and tear from cargo carriers.

Drivers of trucks weighing more than 12 tons have to pay the new tax.

The drivers have staged a number of protests since the system was first introduced, saying they are already struggling to make money due to a number of existing taxes.

The company charged with operating the Platon system is a part-owned by Igor Rotenberg -- the son of one of Putin's closest allies, billionaire Arkady Rotenberg.

Platon is seen by the protesters as an enrichment scheme rather than a genuine tax to improve roads.

The current protest was sparked following a government decision to double the Platon fee to over 3 rubles per kilometre ($0.05) starting in mid-April. However, the hike was significantly reduced after protests.

Russia's transport ministry said the Platon system could gather 23 billion rubles ($406 million) in 2017.

"We don't agree with the Platon system... nobody explained to us why we have to pay, what damage we have to pay for," one of the coordinators of Organisation of Russian Carriers Andrei Vazhutin said earlier this month.

Authorities this week detained a number of strike coordinators, according to OVD-Info, an NGO that tracks arrests of political activists, including Vazhutin, who was put under arrest for two weeks Monday.

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