The saga of miners’ protests, suspended from July, continued yesterday with over 1,000 miners marching along Kyiv’s main thoroughfare and “burying” a coffin loaded with coal in a pedestrian subway, which was to symbolize death of the Ukrainian coal industry. The miners picketed the parliament building, demanding an equivalent of US$600 million in wage arrears and additional subsidies to the industry. The action in Kyiv ran simultaneously with rallies in major mining cities in the east of Ukraine. All in all, some 153 mines across the country participated in the strike.
The miners demand 5.5 billion hryvnyas from the state budget next year. The cash-strapped government, however, has earmarked for the coal industry only 1.62 billion hryvnyas in the draft budget (Ukrainian agencies and television, November 4; Den, Kievskie vedomosti, November 5). At the same time, though, the IMF is pushing for further adjustments in the expenditure element of the budget (see yesterday’s Monitor)–which means that Ukraine will need to make further cuts not only in social spending, but also in its subsidies for the mines. With dozens of mines facing imminent closure and employees of those mines not receiving wages for months, President Kuchma can hardly hope for support from the industrial east in the elections of October 1999. This area supported him in 1994.
This situation–in the words of communist leader Petro Symonenko–is “masterly” when used by the “red.” Speaking to the miners’ rally in Kyiv yesterday, Symonenko said that his faction in parliament is “not responsible for the turmoil in the coal industry.” He called on the picketers to “show who is the master in Ukraine.” Meanwhile, the miners threaten “more decisive actions” on November 15 if their demands are not met (Ukrainian agencies and television, November 4).–OV
KUCHMA PROPOSES SUMMIT IN KYIV TO SETTLE TRANSDINESTER CONFLICT.