Moscow, 3 December 1996 (RFE/RL) -- Thousands of Russian coalminers began an indefinite nationwide strike over unpaid wages today, forcing most of the country's pits to close.
Union leaders said about 400,000 miners across the country joined in the action.
In addition to the payment of back wages miners have also demanded the resignation of the government saying it is "unwilling and incapable" of solving the coal industry's economic problems.
Itar-Tass news agency said miners in the Kuzbass region in southern Siberia and in the Far East were among the most active strikers, while many pits in the southern Urals continued work.
Coal miners of the Krasnoyarsk region also declined to take part in the strike, and only one pit in the Orenburg region stopped work.
Correspondents said today's action marks an escalation in a crisis, sparked by spiralling debts, which has left many state employees without wages for several months.
Teachers and nuclear power plant workers were among those who held protests yesterday.