Opposition politicians seek permission to hold “car run” in Minsk in protest against new tax

Three prominent opposition politicians have applied to the Minsk City Executive Committee for permission to hold a “car run” on January 5 in protest against a new tax on motor vehicle owners.

Viktar Karnyayenka, Syarhey Kalyakin and Anatol Lyabedzka want the city authorities to allow the event to take place on Independence Avenue between 12 p.m. and 1 p.m.

Anatol Lyabedzka “All of us are motorists and the authorities’ actions directly concern all of us just like millions of others,” explained Mr. Lyabedzka, leader of the United Civic Party.

He warned that the absence of any reaction to the introduction of the tax would encourage the government to come up with more unpopular measures.

“A person in Belarus is a rightless creature that has no right but only duties. They stopped reckoning with people’s opinion long ago. We need to resist and all means and opportunities are good for this purpose,” said the politician.

Mr. Lyabedzka said that the politicians would go ahead with their plans even if the event was not permitted. “Independence Avenue is not a pedestrian area, and it will be open to traffic on January 5. That means that we will be riding there,” he said.

On December 20, hundreds of motorists protesting the tax brought traffic to a near halt at some sections of Independence Avenue, driving at low speeds and honking their horns for about an hour.

The annual tax is to be collected from all owners of motor vehicles, including both legal entities and private individuals, with only disabled people, the emergency management ministry, first-aid institutions and public transport operators to be eligible for concessions or exemptions.

The tax would range from three to 25 times the Base Rate (currently 130,000 rubels or $14) depending on the weight and type of the vehicle and on whether the owner is a private individual or a legal entity. //BelaPAN