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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Deripaska Pays More Arrears As Workers Look to Pikalyovo

A Siberian pulp plant controlled by billionaire Oleg Deripaska said Monday that it would pay 87.6 million rubles ($2.8 million) in arrears to disgruntled workers and laid-off staff.

The decision came just days after Prime Minister Vladimir Putin rebuked Deripaska in a similar dispute in the Leningrad region town of Pikalyovo.

Workers at Baikalsk Paper and Pulp Mills had picketed the local administration building and gone on hunger strike to get their money, media reports said.

Some 63 workers of the plant remained on hunger strike and four of them needed medical attention Monday, Alexander Shendrik, a local trade union activist, told Ekho Moskvy radio.

The plant's management said in a statement forwarded by Deripaska's holding company, Basic Element, that all arrears as of June 1 would be met.

The Baikalsk demonstrators had considered blocking a highway if their demands were not met -- a tactic used by the protesters last week before Putin intervened. The mill employs more than 2,000 people and is the main employer in Baikalsk, which has a population of 17,000.

The plant on the banks of Lake Baikal, the world's largest freshwater lake, has not operated since October, after it introduced a closed, internal drainage system that halts discharges into Baikal.The management earlier warned that the plant would have to close because the measures taken to reduce pollution had made the plant unprofitable.

Environmentalists have long campaigned to close the plant. Ivan Blokov, an activist with Greenpeace Russia, said Monday that he was sorry for the workers but that the responsibility lay with the government. "They knew for 13 years that the plant should not operate on the shore of the lake," he said. He said the plant's operations had been "extremely dangerous for the lake."