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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

WHAT THE PAPERS SAY: Miners Face Cabinet, Chinese Coal, Girlfriends

On Aug. 7, Sakhalin authorities brought to life the idea of forcefully ousting picketers who were blocking vitally important roads on the island. But actually force was used not against the miners, who during the past 12 days have been blocking the Sakhalin power station, but against workers of the logging enterprise Pervomaisky, who in the middle of the week blocked a main road running from Pervomaisk to Pobedino. Be that as it may, a precedent has been created: Now it will no longer be possible to call a forceful solution for any conflict in the country unprecedented.

Izvestia, Aug. 8

Foreign Coal Threats

Who stood to gain by threatening Sakhalin coal miners with Australian and Chinese coal? According to an Interfax report, the government did. And who promised to use force to break the blockade of rail lines to the Sakhalin electrical station? Once again the government, if the information in the media is to be believed. However, a concrete official source for these reports has yet to be identified.

The long and methodical Cabinet intrigue (with all of its breakthroughs and stalemates) aimed at reducing the number of Sakhalin mines -- and therefore the number of workers in the mines -- has in no way squared with the extraordinary decisions allegedly put forth lately by the government.

The fact that Sakhalin coal is the most expensive in Russia has long been a well-known fact: $58 per ton versus $12 per ton for Chinese coal. The idea of alternative coal purchases has come up more than once in the past three years. But that idea has been considered only in the abstract -- "wouldn't it be good if ...?" No one in the government can or has been able to seriously take responsibility and declare: "That's it, no more financing nonprofitable production, we're going to buy it from the Chinese."

That will have to be preceded by the re-employment of Sakhalin's miners, a gradual shutdown of the mines and a large number of other unavoidable measures.

According to our information, those who stand to benefit the most from the government's unexpected resolve are those infamous coal traders. That is the very middlemen who were so recently accused of the gravest of transgressions during the miners' strike. Delivering cheap Australian or Chinese coal to Sakhalin would prove very lucrative for them. But strange as it may be, the man in the government who came up with the idea to import coal has no ties to the coal industry. And so every escalation of "coal extremism" is pushing the cabinet closer and closer to an idea that it has yet to consider seriously.

Segodnya, Aug. 5

Dating Breaks Strike

Speculation that authorities plan to disperse the miners picket outside the government building has concerned many. But the Kremlin and the White House hardly need to bustle about and take up the rubber clubs. It seems that the most "venerable" of the Russian rebels won't last long on the bridge even without interference. Moskovsky Komsomolets has learned that a breakdown of morale has taken place among the ranks of the revolutionary miners on the Gorbaty Bridge -- and the reason why is as banal as a cucumber.

Money, as is well-known, is the universal evil. And miners are not immune from this evil. ... Soft-hearted babushki make donations (at least the official ones) into four sealed boxes set up alongside the picket. The give a lot -- up to 50 rubles ($8) each. In fact, not long ago one war veteran sponsored the fighters against the hated regime to the tune of 420 rubles! Given the commercial success of this concession, it would be a sin for the 150 miners to complain about life. But where there is khalyava, a free lunch, suspicion grows. It's particularly difficult to divvy up unearned money. And as the dividing up is carried out only by the leaders of the protest, the rank-and-file can be heard, perhaps out of idleness, to be grumbling ever more. ...

Open-ended Moscow vacations, you must agree, are more interesting than sitting in Vorkuta. Evenings, when the picket's spectators are gone, the miners entertain themselves with card games, Istok vodka -- "the official brand drink" of the protest supplied by "sponsors" -- and with the company of the opposite sex. Several picketers are less and less often spending the night on the bridge, having taken up with steady girlfriends in Moscow. ... Other miners have simply started to leave the unusually hospitable capital. ... Gradually the camp is filling with strange characters, who have been delivered to the picketers as a sort of humanitarian aid by the Anpilovtsy [members of a neo-Stalinist party] and the Communist Party (for example, help sent to the miners by the communists from Tula was a group of ... homeless people). It's already clear: The miners on the Gorbaty Bridge have ceased picketing. There place at the White House has been taken by others.

Moskovsky Komsomolets, Aug. 7