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Protesters Beaten, Discontent Spreads

Although this has not yet turned into a full fledged manifestation of the “greek virus” of widespread social discontent, over the weekend Russia has been assailed with protest actions in multiple cities in response to the state’s idea to place an import duty tax on foreign cars in effort to cover the increasingly burdensome budget gap.  Oddly, it is a luxury tax on imported automobiles which has provoked such public disapproval, but as we have reported, the Kremlin has already prepared itself to put down any crisis-related marches.  In light of these developments, some believe that Vladimir Putin’s aggressive warning to foreign enemies yesterday was an attempt to paint the demonstrations as caused by outside opponents.  The heavy-handed response to the auto protests by riot police, which has included hundreds of arrests and cases of beatings, is causing a wider escalation.  One protestor told the AP that “The Russian people have started to open their eyes to what’s happening in this country. (…) The current regime is not acting on behalf of the welfare of the people, but against the welfare of the people.

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People form a human chain outside the regional government building during a rally of motorists protesting against car import duties in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk December 21, 2008. Russian riot police detained at least 100 people on Sunday protesting against government measures linked to the economic crisis, a crackdown that highlighted official sensitivity to growing hardship. Protests took place across Russia against car import tariffs, which are being raised to prop up car producers and discourage Russians from buying second-hand vehicles.REUTERS/Ilya Naymushin (RUSSIA)