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Russia: Yeltsin Appoints Special Envoy To Defuse Miner Strike

Moscow, 4 December 1996 (RFE/RL) - Russian President Boris Yeltsin appointed a special envoy today to help mediate in a nationwide miners strike over unpaid wages.

The strike, which has forced the closure of many of the country's pits, entered its second day today with strikers also demanding the resignation of the government.

Kremlin spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky told Russian news agencies that Vladimir Potanin, first deputy to Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin was appointed to act as mediator.

The decision was made after a meeting with Yeltsin and Chernomyrdin at the Barvikha sanatorium outside Moscow where Yeltsin is recovering from major heart surgery.

Yastrzhembsky said Potanin will be sent to Siberia's Kuzbass region, Russia's largest coal mining region, which is at the heart of protests sweeping the country.

Other government officials will be sent to other areas of the country where miners are striking to try to defuse the situation.

In some regions, teachers and other state workers have joined in the action.

Strikes and industrial unrest has been common in Russia in recent years. Almost every sector of the economy has been affected by wage arrears caused by spiraling debts. Companies say they cannot pay wages because they are owed money by their own consumers including the government.