Staunton, April 20 – Even as Moscow continues to ignore or downplay the size of the long-haul truckers’ strike – with Dmitry Medvedev absurdly claiming that only 490 trucks are taking part – and some regional officials moving against the strikers, the truckers have delivered a stark message to Moscow: “As soon as the first blood starts flowing, a revolution will begin.”
Znak journalist Igor Pushkaryev describes his visit to a truckers’ encampment in Sverdlovsk oblast in a 4,000-word article that suggests the truckers are standing firm, gaining popular support and attracting more truckers to their cause, becoming increasingly radical (znak.com/2017-04-19/odin_den_s_dalnoboychikami_protestuyuchimi_na_urale_reportazh_znak_com).
The truckers in the camp he vitised, Pushkaryev says, are increasingly well-organized, they receive food from supporters and prepare it for truckers who have parked their vehicles, and they have organized a system of around-the-clock guards in order to prevent the militia or other force structures from staging a provocation, something many expect and fear.
One interesting detail that the journalist reports is that the Zello Internet system which drivers use in scheduling their loads and w hich Moscow said it was blocking continues to function entirely normally. One drive said that “we also though they had prohibited it but for the same being everything is working normally.
From the Zello network, the Sverdlovsk group learned that 300 truckers from Udmurtia and 80 from Oryol oblast joined the strike the day before the journalist arrived. They also learned that truckers in Chita in the Transbaikal and a major transshipment point for trade between Russia and China have now struck as well.
Reportedly, the China authorities are threatening to bring in Chinese drivers to replace the Russian strikers. If true and if that happens, it could touch off an explosion.
So far, the Sverdlovsk authorities have not tried to intervene to stop the strike or to prevent the strikers from seeking to get others to join their ranks, the Znak journalist says; but they are working to intimidate people by photographing the trucks parked in the encampment and taking down the license plate numbers.
On the one hand, Pushkaryev says, several drivers said they wanted to do everything possible “not to be recruited into politics.” These drivers all PARNAS party activists who have been visiting them “’sectarians,’” a term that in Russian carries far more negative connotations than it does in English.
But on the other hand, he continues, “the majority of those at this camp completely consciously support Navalny and those issues which the opposition figure raises.” The way the authorities have treated the elderly and children at marches Navalny has organized has driven many drivers to see him as an attractive, even admirable leader.
Most of the drivers are hostile not only to the government in general, something true of many Russians, but also to Vladimir Putin personalliy. “Putin in 2015 promises us to do away with the transportation tax. Did he do that? No! Who can believe him now?” was the way one striking driver put it.
The truckers say that they will “stand to the end because there is no sense to do anything else.” They are angry that the authorities won’t talk to them. And some of them are prepared for a more violent outcome: “Speaking honestly,” one driver said, “I am ready for a real revolution, one based on force.”
And in what is clearly a warning to any of the powers that be who may be thinking about dispersing the truckers by force, he continued, “as soon as the first blood is shet, a real revolution will begin.”