Hundreds Rally Over Rising Prices

VLADIVOSTOK -- Hundreds of motorists protested rising prices of fuel and other goods in a Far East port on Saturday.

In more than 300 cars -- some bearing stickers saying "We're against inflation!" -- they drove through Vladivostok, honking their horns before a rally that drew even more people opposed to the price rises.

Prices for everything from bread to fuel and apartments are soaring as record prices for oil -- Russia's biggest export -- flood the country with petrodollars.

Some analysts have warned that popular discontent over accelerating inflation could quickly spiral into a major problem for the next president, Dmitry Medvedev.

"Considering what is happening with prices, I don't understand why I am serving in this country," Dmitry, a military captain who declined to give his last name, said at the rally.

"It seems the government doesn't look after ordinary people at all," he said.

Price rises are the main headache for the government as the economy booms for a 10th straight year.

Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said this month that double-digit inflation was possible in 2008, though many people are skeptical of official forecasts and say that prices are rising much faster than the government admits.

"It's getting difficult for me to say what I will bring home in a month. The fuel price is going up so quickly that our captain told us it might soon have an impact on our wages too," said Oleg Kamyshenko, a ship mechanic.

The Central Bank said recently that it was ready to tighten its monetary policy and might soon raise interest rates.

"Russia and the so-called ruling party must understand that these things beat up the Russian people," said Vladimir Bespalov, a deputy in the regional legislature.

Fuel inflation could also be driving up prices for other products and services, said Dmitry Penyaz, chairman of the region's Society of Motorists.