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16 Dec, 2008 03:57

Right hand drive ban shelved after 30% import tariff hike draws protest in Far East

The Kremlin's dropped plans to ban right-hand drive cars after protestors blocked major cities across the country. Experts say the government's chosen the wrong time to pick on drivers.

Thousands of protestors from Siberian capital Novosibirsk to Vladivostok in the Far East blocked city centres after the state's triple whammy to drivers.

First, it's hiked import duties on used foreign cars to 30%. Second, Ruling party United Russia's put a bill to Parliament banning imports of Japanese right-hand drives, which make up 80% of cars in East Russia.

Protestors fume the state's trying to force Russian Ladas on them, since loans to buy more expensive vehicles have dried up in the crisis. People on the streets of Vladivostok weren’t happy.

“We don't want to drive Ladas and Gazelles, we want Japanese cars.”

“We're against the ban on right-hand drives, we're against the increase in import duties, it puts foreign cars out of reach.”

Within hours Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin held crisis talks with regional governors, before freezing the right-hand ban. Elena Sakhnova, Transport Analyst at VTB says the government picked the wrong time to hit drivers.

“People are now destroyed by these duties, so you should not put two disastrous things simultaneously. ”

Protestors say 200,000 people work on the import, sale and servicing of right-hand drives in Vladivostok alone.

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