Following protests against migrant workers in Yakutsk, dozens of bus drivers stay home from work and kiosk vendors are told to shut down for their own safety
In Yakutsk, where protests against migrant workers have continued for the past two days, between 80 and 90 buses didn’t run their routes on March 19. According to Andrey Sharygin, the director of Yakutsk's Unified Dispatch Service, most of the drivers are foreigners.
“With just 420–430 buses in total, this hits us pretty hard. Right now, we’re trying to figure out what happened. The drivers are reporting technical issues, and some say they fear for their safety,” Sharygin told the website SakhaDay, adding that crew foremen and route directors are covering for many missing drivers.
Sergey Maximov, the head of the public utility “Yakut Passenger Trucking Company,” confirmed to Ykt.ru that roughly 80 buses missed their routes on the morning of March 19. By midday, he says, about 40 lines were still out of service. “I emphasize that this is happening only with commercial public transportation. All our shuttle vans are on schedule,” Maximov told the news agency Interfax, adding that some drivers stayed home on Tuesday because they “fear reprisals.”
Official officials are circulating other reports, however. According to a statement by the “SoyuzAvto” group (which represents local transport operators), the longer intervals between bus service are due to technical issues. SoyuzAvto says Central Asian immigrants comprise roughly 65 percent of the bus drivers in Yakutsk. On Monday, the organization revealed that seven men attacked one of these drivers at the final stop of his route. Eyewitnesses told Interfax that police officers are now standing guard at bus-route terminals throughout the city. Journalists have also reported the installation of surveillance cameras near the city mosque.
According to reports by SakhaDay and Interfax, many fruit and vegetable stands throughout Yakutsk were also closed on March 19. Before dawn, at least one of these kiosks was ransacked. The store’s owners told reporters that police advised them to shut down their business indefinitely.
“Thugs smashed the fruit stands, and then [the vendors] were ‘asked’ to close shop and get out. We think [the vendors] will wait it out and get back to work later,” representatives of the Kyrgyz diaspora in Yakutsk told SakhaDay, saying they’re also aware of several other attacks against migrant shop workers. A day earlier, local media outlets reported that Yakutsk residents have started threatening the migrant workers who sell shawarma and vegetables in town.
A source close to Yakutsk's leadership told the magazine RBC that all migrant workers who skipped work on March 19 have “big problems with their work permits,” explaining that these individuals are hurrying to register all the necessary health and migration forms, before city officials launch the mass inspections promised by Governor Aisen Nikolaev.
Correction: This article originally misidentified Yakutsk as Irkutsk. Meduza apologizes for the mistake.
Translation by Kevin Rothrock