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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Farmers Gather to Highlight Grievances

In a rally dominated by anti-Yeltsin rhetoric, about 2, 000 demonstrators gathered Thursday outside the Russian White House to call attention to a variety of problems plaguing the country's agricultural sector.


"The government is waging a war against the Russian peasants, and thus against Russia's future", said Mikhail Lapshin, one of the rally's organizers.


During a press conference Thursday, Oleg Lobov, first vice premier in charge of economics, upped the stakes for Russia's farmers by announcing that they would sharply reduce food imports because of increased supplies from local producers.


Russia would buy no potatoes this year and no grain other than on contracts it had already signed, Lobov said, adding, "Russia can and should feed itself".


The rally, which was one of many which took place across Russia on Thursday, marked the All-Russia Day of the Defense of the Peasant, an event created by the Agrarian Union and the Union of Agricultural Workers specifically to highlight the problems presently faced by Russians agricultural sector.


In the south of Krasnoyarsky Krai on Thursday, defiant farmers refused to sell their products, the television news program, Vesti, reported. Farmers also held rallies in Khabarovsk, Interfax reported.


Agricultural workers at the Moscow rally Thursday outlined vividly the problems they face as Russia leaves behind its system of tight central control.


Anatoly Gurov, chairman of the Agrarian Union for the Tula region and director of the agricultural firm, Butovo, said in an interview Thursday that farms couldn't get a fair price for their goods because newly privatized processing facilities were setting unreasonably low purchase prices.


"The milk and meat processing factories, which used to be state monopoly, have been privatized by their staff", he said. "Now they set prices which don't even cover the cost of production, and the farms have no choice but to sell to them".


As a result, Gurov said, it has become too expensive for his farm to breed cattle and he has had 100 cows out of a flock of 800 simply slaughtered.


He also called the government's policies of importing food from the West "anti-Russian". He called for the Russian government to set aside 15 percent of its budget for the support of agriculture. The sector presently receives less than 4 percent.


Farmers threatened to withhold the sale of their produce if their demands were not met.


An economist who comes from the Stavropol region of Russia and specializes in agriculture demanded on behalf of the demonstrators that the Russian government raise the purchase price for Russian farmer's produce and cancel value-added taxes for the producers.


He said that while the prices for milk and meat have increased 35 and 61 times respectively since the reform started, the price of fertilizers had grown 600 times.


Mikhail Lapshin, leader of the political branch of the Agrarian Union, opened the rally by praising parliament for trying to prevent a collapse of agriculture and accusing the Yeltsin government of deliberately destroying Russian agricultural producers.


The rally was also attended by over 500 activists of conservatives and right-wing nationalist organizations, notably the communist Working Russia and the anti-Semitic Black Hundred.