Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 152

The federal government patted itself on the back yesterday when Russia’s air traffic controllers called off the strike they had been threatening to start on August 9. The government had responded by rushing out a ruling that strikes by air transport workers were illegal on grounds of state security. (Itar-Tass, ORT, August 6)

The government also took credit yesterday for ending all but a couple of miners’ strikes. Miners are continuing to block the railway in Chelyabinsk Oblast in the Southern Urals, and preventing the delivery of urgently needed fuel to Russia’s only nuclear waste-processing facility. Miners in Pechora in the Far North have also threatened to institute a rail blockade. For now, however, the worst of the recent wave of industrial unrest seems to be over. Deputy Premier Boris Nemtsov declared yesterday that, while miners have a right to strike, they have no right to hold the rest of the country to ransom. He insisted that in future the government will immediately stop all financing of the coal industry in areas where railway transport is blocked or other illegal forms of protest are taking place. (RTR, August 6)

Apart from nipping the air traffic controllers’ strike in the bud, the government’s main success was to avert the total power blackout that at the beginning of the week was threatening the 650,000 inhabitants of Sakhalin Island. The power station on the island is now working again at full capacity. The miners who were besieging it relented after Nemtsov agreed to provide federal funds to pay the miners’ wages as long as the blockade was lifted. The miners are now allowing twenty-five wagons of coal a day to get to the plant. However, they say they will keep their pickets in place until August 10 and will resume their blockade if the promised federal funding fails to materialize. There is still a danger, therefore, that the crisis could erupt again. (RTR, August 6)

Nemtsov said yesterday that Russia today has 150 coal mines, of which at least 55 must be closed since they are unprofitable. Some eighty mines have been closed in recent years. (RTR, August 6)