Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 148

A blockade by coal miners seeking payment of wage arrears is causing an acute energy crisis in Sakhalin, in Russia’s Pacific Far East. Some 160 miners and their families have been blocking access to the island’s main power station for over a week, and fuel stocks are now dangerously low. The electricity grid in Sakhalin is not linked to Russia’s unified system, so power generators in other regions cannot make up for insufficient supplies in the island. Engineers say they will soon have to switch the island over to a “survival regime,” which means that power will be cut off to all consumers except hospitals and water-pumping services. At the end of last week, the regional government notified the miners’ organizers that criminal proceedings would be started against them and force used to unblock the railway if they did not remove their pickets. The police are said to be unwilling to resort to force, however, because of the presence on the pickets of the miners’ wives and children. (RTR, August 2) The police had to protect the miners and their families over the weekend after a tip-off that people connected with the fishing business were planning an assault. The attackers were said to be angry about the threat posed by the strike to fish refrigeration plants. (NTV, August 2)

Miners in other parts of the country are also continuing their protests, which include the blocking of stretches of the Trans-Siberian Railway, despite repeated government warnings that such actions are illegal and will be prosecuted. In the Urals city of Chelyabinsk, where some 3,000 miners are blocking a junction on the Trans-Siberian railway, regional Governor Petr Sumin threatened last week to declare a state of emergency if trains and their cargoes were not allowed to pass. He too was said to be reluctant to use force, however, and to be hoping that public opinion would persuade the miners to leave of their own accord. (Reuters, July 30)