In move to placate truckers, Russian parliament proposes lower fine for violating trucking law

MOSCOW – In a hurried attempt to placate protesting truck drivers, the Russian parliament on Friday modified a new road bill and indicated that it was ready to make further concessions.

The State Duma voted overwhelmingly on Friday to lower the fines for failure to pay a new road toll from 450,000 rubles ($6,670) to 5,000-10,000 rubles ($75- $150).

The bill still has to go to the upper house of parliament and get the president’s signature.

Truck drivers, many of whom own and operate their own vehicles, have been protesting the new road toll for long-distance haulers. The truckers say the new system is a financial blow and that it is unlikely the toll money would go to maintain Russia’s roads as promised.

All of the road tax money is supposed to be collected by a private company and then transferred to Russia’s Federal Highway Fund. The transport company is partially owned by Igor Rotenberg, son of a childhood friend of President Vladimir Putin.

Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov this week denied suggestions that family connections have helped Igor Rotenberg to land the lucrative deal under which the company is guaranteed 10 billion rubles ($147 million) a year for operating the system.

In an apparent effort to ward off a planned trucker protest, police on Friday afternoon blocked six lanes of traffic on Moscow’s beltway as hundreds of trucks were driving from across Russia to Moscow to protest.

Lawmakers at a meeting with truck drivers earlier on Friday indicated they would be ready to make further concessions.

Yevgeny Moskvichyov, chairman of the Duma’s transportation committee, told reporters that he hopes that the parliament will vote next year to make the truck drivers exempt from a transportation tax that all motorists in Russia pay.