Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 135

Miners’ leaders in Anzhero-Sudzhensk and Yurga, two towns where striking coal miners have been blockading the Trans-Siberian Railroad since July 3, yesterday rejected an appeal by local governor Aman Tuleev to remove their pickets and call off the blockade. In the town of Osinniki, however, miners were said to be leaning toward abandoning the blockade. There they had already agreed to allow the passage of cargo for metallurgical plants where the furnaces must be kept in permanent operation.

The miners’ leaders blame the government for the miners’ plight, and the aim of their blockade is to get Moscow’s attention. Tuleev is sympathetic to the miners’ complaints but argues that the government is not the guilty party and that the rail blockade is harming other industries in the region. He has appealed to the strikers to consult with mining communities throughout the Kuzbass, Russia’s main mining region, and to be guided by the decision of the majority, not just by the most diehard pickets on the railroad. (NTV, July 14)

Though he himself has Communist sympathies, Tuleev accuses the opposition of trying to exploit the miners’ economic problems to score political points against the government. He told a TV interviewer: “Telegrams are streaming in. Everyone is trying to cash in–here is one from [Communist Party leader Gennady] Zyuganov: love, kisses, embraces, support, we’re with you all the way, and so on… Miners are in demand again–not as human beings, but as a political force that can be exploited… This is the saddest thing of all.” (Russia TV channel, July 13)