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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Miners Block Rails for 4th Day




Unpaid Russian coal miners blocked the Trans-Siberian Railroad for a fourth successive day Monday and refused talks with a government envoy, increasing pressure on the government as it grapples with a financial crisis.


Coal miners started blocking cargo trains on the Trans-Siberian Railroad on Friday, less than two months after abandoning a similar blockade in May. Trains can take another southern route to avoid the blockade, but it involves a detour of several hundred kilometers. Passenger trains are being allowed to pass.


The Railway Ministry said 29 trains had been blocked since Friday and 23 freighters had been diverted. It said 200,000 to 250,000 tons of goods were being blocked every day.


The protesters refused Monday to talk to a government commission sent to the Siberian mining region of Kemerovo and headed by Deputy Fuel and Energy Minister Igor Kozhukhovsky. They said the commission was not senior enough.


Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Sysuyev, for his part, was quoted by Interfax as saying the government would not negotiate with the miners until they unblock the railway.


"The government considers inadmissible illegal acts like the blockade of a railway which will have disastrous consequences for the Russian economy," said Sysuyev in a message to the miners.


"As soon as the blockade is lifted, the government is ready to reopen negotiations with the miners," he said.


Strike leaders said they were determined to continue their action until the government fulfilled all its obligations in a May accord, following the previous strike by pit workers.


The government defused the May crisis by promising to pay a fraction of the wages owed to the miners by their employers and find new jobs for those whose loss-making pits faced closure.


But miners accuse the government of reneging on that agreement and failing to pay the 1.6 billion rubles ($250 million) it pledged to the Kemerovo region. Moscow insists it has fulfilled its pledge.


The Russian government is meeting its commitments to coal miners fully, the Finance Ministry was quoted by Interfax as saying.


Coal miners in various Russian regions received 440.7 million rubles worth of state support in May, which is in line with the limits approved by the Cabinet.


Budget funds disbursed to coal miners for June totalled 374.57 million rubles. The figure for July was 103.8 million rubles, the ministry said.


The government sent coal-mining regions "as much money as ought to have been sent," the ministry said.