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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Unions Promise Minister No Unrest




The head of Russia's largest trade union on Friday promised to take all measures to ensure that a planned nationwide strike does not turn violent, but said other "extremist" groups could cause unrest.


During a meeting with Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin, whose police and troops will be tasked with maintaining order during the Oct. 7 protests, Mikhail Shmakov, head of the Federation of Independent Labor Unions, said all measures would be taken to ensure that demonstrators do not break the law.


But he would not rule out "the possibility of separate extremist actions on the part of separate groups and some political forces," he said. His comments were reported by Itar-Tass.


President Boris Yeltsin has ordered Stepashin to take special security measures in expectation of the protests. A single day of usually peaceful strikes in early October has become an annual event in Russia, but this year's economic crisis has turned the political heat up dramatically.


National days of protests have been held in past years but turnout usually falls drastically short of the trade unions' predictions.


Stepashin also met Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov on Friday. Primakov said the Interior Ministry, which employs 250,000 heavily armed troops as well as hundreds of thousands of ordinary policemen, must take on a wide role in maintaining order in the country during the crisis, Tass reported.


Aside from Shmakov's huge labor organization that counts its members in the millions, other smaller but more radical trade unions have yet to announce what, if any, role they intend to play during the October protests.


The Communist Party was expected until a few weeks ago to use the upcoming day of strikes to oppose the government from the streets. But since the party played a key role in appointing Primakov two weeks ago its position has become more ambiguous.


Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov on Friday said the party, the largest in parliament, would back Primakov, but only if the government does not return to "liberal" economic policies.


Zyuganov, who returned Thursday from a trip to the Council of Europe parliamentary assembly in Strasbourg, France, said his aim had been to convince the West that if "liberals" get their way in Russia, millions will take to the streets.


"If the situation will develop according to the demands of the liberals into a severe scenario, 95 percent of the country's citizens on Oct. 7 will have the right to demonstrate against that course," he told reporters at the State Duma, parliament's lower house.