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Russian Coal Miners Threaten Yeltsin With Nationwide Strike

Moscow, Jan. 25 (RFE/RL) - The head of the Coal Miners' Union in Russia announced plans for a nationwide strike starting on February 1 as about 1,000 coal miners picketed the government's "White House" building in Moscow for a second day today.

The miners want a meeting with President Boris Yeltsin over wage demands. They say they are dissatisfied with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's announcement earlier this week that additional funds would be offered to the ailing industry. They also said they want Yeltsin to take personal responsibility for issues relating to the coal industry.

Chernomyrdin promised on Tuesday to allocate an additional 600,000 million rubles ($134 million) to the coal industry to meet unpaid back wages. But miners say this only a stopgap measure.

The head of the Coal Miners' Union, Vitaly Budko, told protesters today that the demonstration would continue tomorrow. Miners' strong support for Yeltsin helped the Russian president come to power in 1991. But some miners have gone months without pay and many have turned against the Yeltsin administration.