Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 59

The Russian government is clearly jumpy about the nationwide strike called for Thursday, March 27, by the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Russia (FITU) to protest against rising unemployment and unpaid wages. FITU predicts that 20 million of Russia’s 72.6 million workers will take part. (Nezavisimaya gazeta, March 19) The government is nervous that demonstrations could turn violent in some places. Since the cabinet reshuffle, FITU has abandoned its demand for a change of government, but regional trade union organizations wield a fair amount of autonomy and FITU admits it has little control over what happens at the local level.

The government is also alarmed that both the Communist party and presidential hopeful Aleksandr Lebed have endorsed the strike. Lebed, who is competing with the Communists for the support of those strata of society that have lost out in Russia’s market reforms, has been predicting an Albanian-type breakdown of law and order. (Nezavisimaya gazeta, March 15) Unlikely as this seems, the government is clearly rattled. Police are being put on alert and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin spent the weekend in consultation with regional leaders. He told them to monitor the situation in their regions, and repeated earlier complaints that some regional authorities are withholding wages and diverting the funds to other purposes. (NTV, March 22) Chernomyrdin has evidence to support his charge: according to a recent Finance Ministry audit, one-quarter of all funds transferred to regional budgets from the center were misappropriated in 1996. (Segodnya, March 13)

Chubais Charms Miners’ Leaders.