Staunton, May 25 – In a move that suggests the Russian authorities have decided to crack down hard on the striking long-haul truck drivers, police last night arrested more than 20 drivers legally parked near Moscow and then planted evidence that could be used against them and began more serious harassment of drivers elsewhere in Russia.
Because this took place near the capital, it has been widely reported; and the many outlets confirm one another (ovdinfo.org/express-news/2017/05/24/boycy-rosgvardii-s-avtomatami-v-rukah-zaderzhali-na-51-km-mkad-ne-menee-20, ura.news/news/1052290659, snob.ru/selected/entry/124901, activatica.org/blogs/view/id/3513/title/srochnaya-novost-na-mkad-shvacheny-dalnoboyshchiki, rbc.ru/rbcfreenews/5925b6239a79472898db1023, echo.msk.ru/news/1987124-echo.html, 360tv.ru/news/mkad-113013/ and govoritmoskva.ru/news/121455/).
The basic facts are these: Some two dozen truckers were parked legally near milepost 51 of the Moscow ring road. They planned to put up banners and signs to show that their strike against the Plato fee system continues. But they were unable to do so before police and other siloviki arrived and detained more than 20 of them.
Then, officers in plain clothes put the signs on the trucks and even acted as “drivers” so that they could be photographed and these pictures used as evidence against the drivers. The location of those detained is unknown because the police confiscated the drivers’ cell phones, according to union leaders.
Meanwhile, in Sverdlovsk oblast, some 900 miles from Moscow, police detained drivers as well, again ignoring the fact that the drivers were parked legally and that they did not yet have any banners or placards about the strike on their vehicles. Drivers there have posted a video clip showing what happened on Youtube (youtube.com/watch?v=KHZep0FpDXg).
It thus appears that the powers that be in Russia have decided that they are going to try to stamp out the strike via arrests. According to one commentator sympathetic to the drivers, all these things show that “the powers have begun to tighten the screws” after refusing to negotiate with them as promised (forum-msk.org/material/news/13245681.html).
Aleksandr Gavrilin adds that in his view, “the long-haul truckers have made one fatal mistake. By declaring that they ‘aren’t involved in politics,’” they have been unable to avoid a situation in which “politics is getting involved with them.”