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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Scientists Join Miners At White House Rally




Dozens of prominent scientists joined striking miners Thursday at a protest outside the Russian White House, demanding the resignation of President Boris Yeltsin.


The scientists, some of whom had been marching to Moscow from outlying towns since Monday, castigated the government for fiscal mismanagement and accused it of destroying one of the world's finest scientific establishments.


"Without science Russia will become a colony!" boomed one speaker, Alexander Bryuchanov, a union leader at the Kurchatov Atomic Institute.


About 200 miners from four far-flung mining regions have been camped outside the White House, the main government building, for the past week, demanding back wages.


While most of the scientists at the demonstration said they were still being paid, their pay is a pittance -- 480 rubles to 600 rubles ($80 to $100) a month -- and they complained that they no longer have the equipment or other resources they need to carry out their work.


The tenor of the protest was far different from many demonstrations held in Moscow in the past couple of years, which have tended to attract hard-core Communists, most of them elderly and now on the political fringe.


The scientists and miners were mostly of working age, with political views spanning the spectrum. They agreed only that the Yeltsin government has failed them and must go.


Sergei Dembovsky, a physicist who heads a laboratory at the Russian Academy of Science, clapped his arms around a fellow scientist and a miner and hugged them toward him.


"We are scientists and he is a miner, but we have the same problem," Dembovsky said. "We are tired of tyrannical demands and don't believe our government, and demand the resignation of the president."


The miner, Viktor Fokin, nodded his agreement. "We hate this regime," he said. "We will struggle until the end for this government to be eliminated, to be crushed into powder."


Fokin, who marched to Moscow from Vorkuta, about 1,900 kilometers to the northeast, said he hadn't been paid in nine months.


Earlier in the day, Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov met with miners and asked them to support his party's drive for Yeltsin's impeachment.


Also Thursday, oil workers in northern Russia, taking a cue from miners, blocked a rail line used to transport oil to a refinery, Itar-Tass reported.


Miners at the Yarik heavy oil field -- the only place in Russia where oil is extracted from a mine -- were fed up that management hadn't honored a Jan. 24 contract guaranteeing months of back wages, the news agency said.