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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Miners Step Up Wage Protests

Coal miners' protests against unpaid back wages escalated over the weekend, as miners in the Rostov region blocked off a stretch of railroad tracks Saturday night, while miners in Eastern Siberia continued their hunger strike Sunday.

Late Saturday night in the Rostov region town of Zverevo, around 40 miners parked their cars next to railroad tracks to block train access to the Obukhovskaya mine, Interfax reported Sunday, citing a police source. The protest was continuing on Sunday.

Vasily Karpov, deputy director of the coal miners' trade union, said about 1,000 miners were involved in the protest, The Associated Press reported.

The miners are reportedly demanding unpaid wages totaling close to 12 million rubles going back to 1998.

Meanwhile, over 160 coal miners and ancillary workers from the Yeniseiskaya mine in Chernogorsk, Khakassia, including 40 women, are continuing their hunger strike, which began last Monday. They are demanding unpaid wages dating back to October.

At least two striking miners were hospitalized Wednesday. Having examined other strikers, doctors advised at least 20 more people to end their fast, saying their condition was deteriorating rapidly, Interfax reported.

The Yeniseiskaya mine owes its workers over 6.8 million rubles and an average of 200,000 rubles to each striker, Interfax reported, citing mineworkers.

A group of 59 miners first went on hunger strike April 15, seeking immediate payment of overdue wages. On April 26, they agreed to suspend the strike, when the mine's owners, Yeniseiugol, paid 1 million rubles in back wages and promised to pay the rest by May 15.

But Yeniseiugol failed to pay off the wages and miners resumed their strike May 17, saying they were determined to strike until the last ruble is paid.

"We have been promised that half of the sum will be paid next week," said a Yeniseiskaya worker who asked to remain anonymous. "We will continue the strike until we are paid in full," Interfax reported him as saying.

Yeniseiugol officials could not be reached for comment Friday.

"Neither the authorities nor the mine officials are paying any attention to us," the Yeniseiskaya worker said, adding that no talks were taking place between strikers and the mine's management or owners.

RIA Novosti reported Friday that some 260 mine workers, including the hunger strikers, might be sacked by August, as the mine has long been bankrupt.

Miners in the unprofitable coal industry have traditionally been one of the country's most vocal groups in protesting unpaid wages.

The industry employs millions of government and private sector workers. Miners staged frequent protests and hunger strikes over wage arrears in the late 1990s.

State Duma deputies discussed the Khakassia hunger strike Friday, with Andrei Isayev, head of the Labor and Social Policy Committee, proposing a debate Tuesday dedicated to it.

Isayev said that lawmakers had asked Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov to report by June 2 on Cabinet plans to make up wage arrears in the regions.