ST. PETERSBURG -- Owners and representatives of small businesses in St. Petersburg are demanding an immediate meeting with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin about the market where they work, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.
The shop owners working at St. Petersburg's Khasan Market say the trade complex in which they have invested a great deal of money was transferred to another investor without their permission.
Russia's Federal Antimonopoly Service found the transfer illegal, but its decision was later overruled in court.
On October 6 -- Putin's birthday -- a group of 300 vendors arrived in Moscow from St. Petersburg and offered a depiction of a sinking ship as a gift to Putin, meant as a symbol of the fate of small businesses in St. Petersburg.
Sergei Vesnov, the head of the Association of Small and Medium Businesses in St. Petersburg, told RFE/RL that three days after the vendors presented their "gift" to Putin, police came to the Khasan Market, searched the vendors' shops and market stalls, and severely beat their lawyer.
The angry vendors then went to Putin's office in St. Petersburg to demand a meeting with him, but were turned down.
The businesspeople told RFE/RL that they are planning to continue pursuing a meeting with Putin.