Kremlin Transfers Control Of Mines to Russia
MOSCOW (AP) _ The Kremlin agreed today to surrender control of some of the country’s richest coal mines to the Russian Federation in an agreement that could help speed an end to a crippling two-month-old miners’ strike.
Miners in five cities in western Siberia’s Kutznetsk coal basin returned to work as the deal was being signed in Moscow, the official Tass news agency said.
Russian leader Boris N. Yeltsin has promised the mines economic independence, including the right to determine whether they want to be privately owned. Previously, the national Coal Ministry made decisions on everything from prices to production.
The independent Interfax news agency said the pact was initialed by Russia’s First Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Skokov and his Soviet counterpart, Vitaly Doguzhiyev.
A committee has been created to work out how the transfer will be accomplished, Doguzhiyev’s aide, Konstantin Bakanov, said in a telephone interview.
Bakanov said the agreement applied to coal mines in the Kuznetsk, the Soviet Union’s second most important coal producing region; in the Rostov region near the Ukraine, and in the Komi Autonomous Republic near the Arctic Circle. Agreement to turn over mines in the Far North region of Vorkuta was reached last week.
Russia, the largest of the 15 Soviet republics, has also indicated an interest in gaining jurisdiction over metallurgy factories and one of the country’s biggest factories, the gigantic UralMash machine building complex in Sverdlovsk.
Up to 100,000 Kuznetsk miners have been on strike since March 4, as part of a nationwide walkout that began days earlier. At the strike’s height, 300,000 of the country’s 1.2 million miners had put down their tools, idling one- quarter to one-third of the 600 mines and many other coal-dependent industries.
Besides seeking higher wages and better working conditions, the miners had political demands, including the resignation of Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev, the delegation of more power to the republics and the transfer of mines to Russian jurisdiction.