The move is designed to protect domestic producers and foreign companies involved in car production in Russia amid the global financial crisis. But analysts argue the measure is unlikely to spur demand for Russian-made cars, but will hit consumers, who prefer foreign models, and those engaging in the import business.
Import duties are linked to engine size and have been increased to at least 30% of a vehicle's customs value. The minimum tariffs on used foreign cars and trucks have been raised to 50% and 100%, respectively.
Protests in December were especially intense in the Pacific city of Vladivostok, where demonstrators called for the government's resignation. Riot police brutally clamped down on protesters. An estimated 90% of vehicles in Russia's Far East are second-hand Japanese cars.
In December, the government announced a series of other measures to support domestic car manufacturers, which include state subsidies and lower transportation tariffs. The government is expected to allocate some 200 billion rubles ($6.5 billion) to the automobile industry, and authorities have also promised measures to encourage purchases of Russian-produced cars.