Moscow, 5 December 1996 (RFE/RL) - Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin said today that he has sent emergency funds to striking miners to cover some of their unpaid wages.
Interfax quoted Chernomyrdin as saying, during a government meeting in Moscow, that 750,000 million roubles ($136 million) had been sent to ease the crisis that has halted more than half the country's mines for a third day running.
Chernomyrdin promised that more payments would follow. Union leaders say the government owes at least 1.5 trillion roubles ($270 million) to the miners.
He said the first portion of the money was transferred yesterday and blamed the state coal company Rosugol for not distributing it to miners. Chernomyrdin acknowledged, however, that huge sums promised in the past had often not arrived.
There have been calls from some miners for the government to resign over the wage crisis that has hit most sectors of the economy.
Teachers, doctors and other state employees have joined the strike in some regions and have threatened further action if their wage demands are not met.