Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Russian Long-Haul Truckers Strike Resumes But Moscow Largely Ignores It

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 18 – News outlets in regions from Vladivostok to St. Petersburg and from the Far North to the Caucasus report that long-haul truckers have successfully resumed their strike, but government media in Moscow have largely ignored it and Russian officials have so far taken any dramatic steps to stop it.

            The absence of coverage in the central media is no surprise -- the Kremlin wants only upbeat news as Vladimir Putin heads into his re-election campaign – and its low-key response as far as the use of its vaunted police powers is concerned isn’t either. Given the strikers’ anger at Moscow’s failure even to talk with them, any use of force would likely attract more drivers and others to their cause.

            But this approach may not hold. On the one hand, as the number of regional reports increases, at least some Moscow outlets will begin coverage. And on the other, this strike, which is scheduled to last through December 15, is likely to mean that some goods needed for the holiday celebrations won’t be delivered or shortages of others will send prices up.

            Consequently, what appears likely in the coming days is a gradual tightening of the screws like efforts over the last 24 hours in North Ossetia to have non-striking drivers sign pledges not to take part in any labor action (onkavkaz.com/novosti/3634-v-severnoi-osetii-ot-dalnoboischikov-trebuyut-podpisat-otkaz-ot-uchastija-v-zabastovke-protiv-p.html) or like the detention of one union coordinator in Voronezh (ovdinfo.org/express-news/2017/12/17/v-voronezhe-zaderzhali-koordinatora-protestuyushchih-dalnoboyshchikov 

            Only if the strikers become more political and attract others to the cause are the Russian authorities likely to move against them in a more repressive manner. But that can hardly be excluded given that some drivers and their union leaders are already calling for Putin’s ouster from office.

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