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Cross-Country Auto Rally In Ukraine Protests Taxes

Cars line up to make the drive to Kyiv in Luhansk.
Cars line up to make the drive to Kyiv in Luhansk.
LVIV, Ukraine -- Critics of a new Tax Code in Ukraine are taking part in a cross-country auto rally to protest the code's impact on small businesses, RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service reports.

The auto rally -- under the slogan "Take the country back from oligarchs and return it to the people" -- started on March 21 in the western city of Lviv and the far eastern city of Luhansk.

The protesters' main demands are for officials to preserve the simplified system of taxing businesses and make changes to the Tax Code adopted in the fall.

Some 90 cars left Lviv for the town of Kaymanka Buzska, where a rally was held before nine cars continued on to Kyiv -- about 500 kilometers from Lviv.

One participant, Lviv entrepreneur Roman Oleksevych, told RFE/RL he was unhappy with the business climate in the country.

"After the Tax Code was adopted, the number of inspections of businesses increased," he said. "I do not have employees but still have to file reports each month. Too many reports."

Along with street traders and small-business owners, the protest action is also supported by miners and teachers demanding that their wage arrears be paid.

As the cars left Lviv, seven of them started driving the 600 kilometers from Luhansk toward Kyiv. Rally participants told RFE/RL they were stopped by police in the eastern part of the country several times on the suspicion that their cars had been involved in traffic accidents, but were allowed to continue their journey.

Protesters hope to gather more supporters on their way to Kyiv and hold a demonstration with all of the participants of the rally on March 25.

Last fall, the Assembly of Small and Medium-Sized Businesses of Ukraine was a leading initiator of the protests against the new Tax Code, which were attended by tens of thousands of people in various cities across the country.

Under pressure from the protests, President Viktor Yanukovych vetoed the first bill adopted by parliament and later signed an amended version of it. But critics say the changes made to the tax law are unsatisfactory.

See photo gallery in Ukrainian here