Protests in Russia against tax increase on imported cars

December 22nd, 2008 - 7:03 am ICT by IANS  

Moscow, Dec 22 (DPA) Protests took place Sunday in several Russian cities, especially in the Far East, against higher taxes on imported cars and high fuel prices.In the Far Eastern coastal city of Vladivostok, up to 1,000 demonstrations were confronted by police, who kept promises made a day earlier to act decisively against the unregistered protest.

A number of participants in the Vladivostok protest were arrested and journalists were hindered from recording the event.

Immediately preceeding the demonstration in Vladivostok, protesters driving more than 40 cars deliberately slowed down traffic through the centre of the city, population 600,000.

“We’re are protesting not for new cars, but because there is almost no work here besides the trade in used cars,” said one participant.

Every second person in the region is dependent on the car industry.

Protests in the town of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, also in the Far East, saw arrests as well, with authorities there saying around 600 police took action against demonstrators.

Protests in Moscow and St Petersburg however saw no clashes, according to the Itar-Tass news agency.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in early 2009 raised import taxes on new cars by between 25 and 30 percent to protect Russia’s ailing automotive sector.

Import tolls were to be raised on used cars based on the engine size.

To head off protests, Putin promised a toll-free transfer of Russian cars to the east.

In the Russian Far East, many people earn a living on the importation of South Korean and Japanese cars, and the worldwide financial crisis has struck the formerly strong Russian economy particularly hard.

Among other factors, drastically falling commodities prices have led to a consequent drop in the value of the ruble.

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