Staunton, December 6 -- The Russian justice ministry has put the long-haul truckers on its black list as “foreign agents,” Carriers Union leader Andrey Bazhutin says; and the drivers are pleased because that action only “confirms our status as patriots,” a reaction that suggests the regime’s action may be proving counterproductive.
Not only has it attracted media attention to the truckers, about whom Moscow outlets had been silent for a long time, Bazhutin continues, but it has inspired them to expand their efforts because the label is almost an honorific as it shows how important the group is viewed by the state (novayagazeta.ru/articles/2017/12/05/74801-nas-nazvali-inostrannymi-agentami-chto-podtverzhdaet-nash-status-patriotov).
Indeed, he says, “many carriers when they heard that the union is now on the black list said: we are proud of this. The government has called us ‘a foreign agent,’ an action that confirms our status as patriots.” And both he and they are certain that this label won’t change anything in their activities, although it could win them more support.
Plans for a new strike from December 15 to 25 are going ahead, Bazhutin says; and the drivers will be making a new effort to show that the fees the government is imposing on them will ultimately lead to higher prices for ordinary Russians, a task the Russian government has made easier by attracting attention to the union in the way that it has.
The strike will be countrywide, and it will be extremely difficult for the powers that be to oppose: “To fight with one’s own people is incorrect,” the union head continues. Most truckers want only to bring their grievances to the attention of others, but an increasing share consist of “radically inclined people” who are prepared to do more than that.
The Carriers Union will do everything it can to keep them in line, Bazhutkin says; “but no one knows into what kind of ‘partisans’ these people may be converted. And thus it is very difficult to understand” what the Russian government thinks it is achieving by its provocations against the drivers.