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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Miners Agree to Break In Ural Railroad Protest




Coal miners protesting unpaid wages agreed Friday to lift a two-week blockade of the Trans-Siberian Railroad in the Chelyabinsk region, while others continued a hunger strike in the Far East, news agencies reported.


Miners from the Chelyabinskugol company agreed to suspend their protest after meeting with local government officials in the town of Kopeisk in the Ural Mountains region, Interfax reported. But the miners threatened to sit back down on the tracks Aug. 15 if overdue wages aren't paid by that date.


Until then, they will picket alongside the railroad, the news agency reported.


Chelyabinsk region governor Pyotr Sumin said through a spokesman that the federal government had promised a one-time cash payment of 25 million rubles ($4 million) to help pay the miners. Sumin also said he would find an additional 12 million rubles, which he said would come from debtors to the local budget.


In Partizansk in the Far East, 39 coal miners and 22 workers from the mine's bus depot and electric shops suspended their 11-day hunger strike, according to NTV television. The hunger strikers are demanding back wages and guarantees of employment after the mines are closed.


Supporters of the Partizansk hunger strikers said that if the demands are not fulfilled by Aug. 14 they will block the Partizansk-Nakhodka railway line, cutting off international ports in the Primorye region from the rest of Russia.


The government has recently toughened its line toward the miners. First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov said Thursday that the government will withhold subsidies to mines in regions where workers continue to block the tracks. He also said criminal cases would be brought against some of them.


The Independent Union of Miners called Friday for Nemtsov's resignation, saying his remarks showed that he "did not understand the relationship between workers, employers and government representatives in a normal society."


The government says that Russia's unprofitable coal industry faces a restructuring under which dozens of mines that are no longer economically viable will close forever. The miners are the most vociferous group among Russia's unpaid workers, who number in the millions and include both government and private-sector employees.


Most of the wage debts are owed by private-sector enterprises, but the problem is compounded by the cash-strapped government's failure to pay its bills.