08/10/1998 14:55:31 Шахтеры могут скоро прекратить блокаду Транссиба
MOSCOW, Aug 10 (Reuters) - Authorities in the Chelyabinsk
region of central Russia claimed a breakthrough on Monday in
talks with coal miners who have been blocking the Trans-Siberian
railway for two weeks demanding payment of wage arrears.
"Most miners at five out of seven striking mines now say
that they are ready to unblock the railway," said a spokesman
for the regional governor.
"The governor will address the miners today and there is
hope that this may end the blockade."
About 180 people are sitting on the rail tracks blocking
cargo and passenger trains near the city of Chelyabinsk, in the
There was a first breakthrough on Friday when a majority of
the strike organisers voted to end the economically damaging
blockade after reaching an agreement on a schedule of repayments
with the authorities.
However, the diehards rallied support and the blockade
resumed after a pause of just three hours as the strikers held
out for a demand that the wages of those who had stayed away
from work in recent weeks still be paid in full.
The governor's spokesman said the authorities would leave
that issue to the mine managements but warned that, unless the
blockade ended, Moscow would cut off federal funds to the
region's coal industry.
Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov said last week the
government would withhold cash from coal-mining industries in
any region where unpaid miners were blockading rail lines.
Meanwhile, a police spokesman in Moscow said on Monday a
group of specialists in economic crimes had been sent to
Chelyabinsk to find out whether the money that that the miners
are owed was stolen.
The blockade in Chelyabinsk, one of a rash of such actions
nationwide over the past three months, has cost the railways
more than 100 million roubles ($16 million) in July and August.
Interfax news agency said the cabinet would meet towards the
end of August to hear from a government commission investigating
problems in the mines. The miners are among the worst affected
of millions of Russian workers whose wages have been held up for
months as their employers are caught in a web of unpaid debts.
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