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Russian Region To Close Unsafe Mines

Smoke rises from the Raspadskaya mine in Kemerovo on May 20, where 66 miners died and 24 are still missing two weeks after dual explosions.
KEMEROVO -- Officials in the central Russian region where a mine accident killed dozens of people two weeks ago have vowed to shut down all unsafe coal mines, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

The statement was made at a gathering of local authorities in the capital of the Kemerovo region convened to discuss mining operations at Raspadskaya and Aleksievskaya. Two explosions killed 66 miners at the Raspadskaya mine on May 9, and 24 other miners are still missing.

Rescue efforts at the mine have been suspended due to an underground fire.

Meanwhile, a landslide at the Aleksievskaya mine on 19 killed two miners.

Local miners said they are planning to hold a mass protest in the near future to demand greater safety at work and better wages. A similar action held last week in the town of Mezhdurechensk -- where the Raspadskaya mine is located -- ended with clashes between protesters and police with several demonstrators being briefly arrested.

Raspadskaya mine Director Igor Volkov was sacked this week and the Russian Prosecutor-General's Investigative Committee announced that a criminal case has been opened against Volkov.

He is accused of gross negligence that led to the deadly explosions.

The Raspadskaya mine is owned by Evraz, a holding company controlled by oligarch Roman Abramovich and steel tycoon Aleksandr Abramov.