Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Daghestan’s Long-Haul Truckers Detail Their Grievances in Appeal to Putin

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 26 – While some drivers are going home briefly to plant their gardens ( and while officials are claiming that the strike is collapsing (, striking drivers in Daghestan today issued an appeal to Vladimir Putin detailing their grievances (

            Arguing that the current situation in the transportation sector is “unjust,” the drivers say that they have five demands they are confident will “improve” the situation. These demands include: complete cancellation of the Plato system, an end to the transportation tax, better weighing of trucks and cargoes, better work rules, and a new system for calculating fuel taxes.

            Significantly, the drivers base their arguments on constitutional grounds, arguing that the Plato system and other rules violate particular provisions of the 1993 Russian Constitution as well as specific Russian legislation.

            Other developments in the long-haul truckers’ strike during the last 24 hours include:

·         One commentator says that the truckers strike will combine with protests against the destruction of the khrushchoby into what he calls a Russian Maidan (

·         Fears among ever more drivers that the authorities are going to stage one or more provocations against them (

·         A widespread decision among drivers no longer to watch Moscow television and indications that the younger drivers are even more radical than their elders (  and

·         Some truckers say that the regional authorities are so clumsy in their  handling of the strike that soon they will be calling on drivers to name their children “Plato” (

·         Residents of Kirov have announced a demonstration in support of the strike for tomorrow (

·         Drivers in Sakha say they will convene a republic congress of drivers on May 5 (

Moscow City Officials, Worried by Anger over Plan to Tear Down Khrushchoby, Seek to Contain It

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 24 – The Moscow city government’s plan to tear down the five-storey apartment blocks known as “khrushchoby” and shift their residents to other locations to sell the land under them for development has infuriated residents and led to announcements of plans for protests (

            That has prompted officials in the Moscow mayor’s office to meet behind closed doors  to decide how to contain or at least deflect this anger so that the plan will not generate the kind of meetings that could grow into mass demonstrations like those in 2011-2012 (

            According to those who took part in these meetings, Znak journalist Yekaterina Vinokurova says, the mayor’s office “considers that the best way to stifle [public] dissatisfaction is by personal discussions” with the people, noting this year there are in the city, “elections to local organs” and United Russia candidates “must enter into dialogue with residents.”

            Officials expect that public anger will ebb somewhat when on May 10, the city publishes the list of the first apartment buildings to be torn down.  Those living in others may conclude that they have escaped the axe this time around and be less inclined to support or participate in any protests.

            But at the same time, the city and even the federal government have made statements designed to reduce anger: The major has said that people will not be forced to move out of the section of the city in which they now live, and Putin has said no force will be involved thus in this process (

            That may or may not be enough. According to Moscow’s vice mayor, Anastasiya Rakov, “Moscow is a big village, and as soon as in any district appear two or three opposition figures appear, their complaints are heard throughout Moscow about problems that as a result acquire immediately a city-wide significance.” One might even add an all-Russian one too.

A New Scissors Crisis in Russia: Oil Prices Up But GDP Down

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 26 – Over the past year, the editors of Nezavisimaya gazeta point out, the price of oil has risen by 60 percent but Russia’s GDP and per capita incomes have continued to fall, a pattern at odds with what most expected and one that points to ever more serious problems for Moscow and Russians in the future.

            For many years, Russian officials have said and Russians have generally accepted the proposition that the country’s GDP and per capita incomes are directly related to the price of oil. When it goes up, they do; when it doesn’t; they fall. But over the past year, “the price of oil rose 60 percent” but the others fell (

            The average price of Urals oil in the first quarter of 2016 was 31.99 US dollars a barrel. By the first quarter of this year, it had risen 1.6 times, the editors of the Moscow paper say in a lead article today. But the Russian economy “practically did not react at all to this growth in prices” or “strictly speaking,” it reacted with “a small decline” compared to the year before.

            It cites the conclusion of Andrey Klepach, the chief economist of the Foreign Economy Bank that “in the first quarter of 2017, industry ceased to be the driver of growth. Processing production showed a fall as a result of low investment demand and the gradual slowing of growth of deliveries for export.” 

            The economist notes that “judging from indirect assessments, investment activity in the start of the year again began to fall. In the first quarter, the extent of construction substantially contracted after what had been a positive dynamic in the second half of last year.”  But officials at the Central Bank and the economic development ministry have claimed the opposite.

            “Considering this from the side,” the editors say, “one must acknowledge that the Russian Federation is immersed in a world of parallel statistics,” official ones which suggest that everything is going well and unofficial expert ones that do not support that conclusion. As a result, independent experts long ago ceased to have much confidence in official data.

            Despite the underlying trends, the paper notes, there has been a growth in consumer confidence in the first months of this year, the result of low inflation and the strengthening ruble, according to officials. “But there is another explanation,” the editors of Nezavisimaya gazeta suggest.

            And it is this: the one-time payment to pensioners of a 5000-ruble (60 US dollars) supplement in January could easily explain the small increases the government claims.  But if that is the case, then, as Slepach points out, it is “still too early” to be talking about stable growth, even if oil prices are higher.