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A group of protesting lorry drivers in Daghestan have said they are now satisfied, after the government conducted an inspection of the customs post on the Azerbaijani border. They say that there are no longer queues and they no longer have to pay bribes at customs control.
The drivers had been demanding an apology from a customs officer captured in a video in which another official called them ‘fools’, and spoke of extorting money from drivers. Authorities told the drivers the official speaking in the video had already been dismissed.
Acting deputy chairman of Daghestan’s government Ramazan Dzhafarov conducted an inspection of both border crossings with Azerbaijan, at the Yarag-Kazmalyar and Viaduk checkpoints. According to Dzhafarov, the situation on the border is now normal.
‘For several days there have been no queues. I met with the drivers, representatives of services which are there. Work is going on in a normal manner’, Tass cites Dzhafarov as saying.
The lorry drivers confirmed to OC Media that there are no longer queues at the border. They believe that the situation has changed for the better after the 31 October rally.
‘The other day I passed the post without problems, there was no traffic. And after the rally, I did not hear of extortions even from our Azerbaijani colleagues. I don’t know if this will last long, but for now we are glad that we were heard’, one drivers introducing himself as Gasan told OC Media.
‘The Golden Bridge’
The Yarag-Kazmalyar checkpoint is located in Dagestan’s Magaramkent District at the River Samur, and is popularly known as ‘The Golden Bridge’. It was given the name because of the frequent bribes demanded by border guards and customs officials working on both sides of the border.
This year, a number of lorry drivers from Daghestan began to refuse to pay bribes at the post. After protests broke out, several officials were detained accused of extorting money from the drivers. Following the arrests, bribes were only extracted from foreign drivers from Azerbaijan, Belarus, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, according to a number of Daghestani drivers.
‘Pay for registration. Pay if you don’t want problems. Pay to the sanitary inspection. They think if we are transporting expensive goods then we ourselves are rich. But we have children, families, we need to pay for the upkeep of our vehicles! This has been going on for years! It just can’t go on forever. It is very good that [the customs officials] are now under pressure. I hope this will last for a long time. They also dishonor Daghestan!’ one driver from Azerbaijan, Safar Mammadov, told OC Media.
[To find out how protests by lorry drivers in Daghestan began, see OC Media’s infographic].
On 7 November, a meeting was held at Daghestan’s Ministry of Transport, Energy and Communications. Deputy Minister and head of the Transport Department Yakub Khudzhayev announced that Daghestani lorry drivers were planning another protest action against the ‘Platon’ road toll system.
Minister Saigidpasha Umakhanov ordered that a meeting with specialists and representatives of the drivers be arranged to discuss their problems and demands.