ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) — Hundreds of the Russian truck drivers who have been protesting around the country were driving their rigs toward Moscow on Sunday to demand that the government cancel a new road tax, one protest leader said.
The truck drivers, many of whom own and operate their vehicles, say the hefty road tax for long-distance haulers threatens to put them out of business. They have little faith that the money will go toward maintaining Russia's notoriously bad roads.
Alexander Rastorguyev, one of the leaders of the protesting drivers in St. Petersburg, said Sunday that more than 200 trucks were driving toward Moscow to take part in a demonstration on the outskirts of the capital on Monday. He said they would be joined by others from other parts of Russia.
In some regions, however, local authorities have blocked trucks from traveling to Moscow. Rastorguyev said he was unable to join the St. Petersburg truckers because he was detained by police for several hours on Sunday.
Truckers have been protesting across Russia for nearly three weeks. In some cities, including the southern city of Volgograd, they have blocked traffic by driving slowly across all lanes of a major road. In other regions, the truckers have parked along roads and refused to work.
Ilya Lvov, who heads the St. Petersburg branch of the opposition party Democratic Choice, said the road tax would increase transportation costs by 15 to 20 percent, which would put further pressure on Russia's already high inflation rate.
Russia's northern cities depend on fruit and vegetables brought from southern parts of the country.