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Scientists Demand Back Wages, Plan Protests; Physicist on Hunger Strike

October 1, 1996

MOSCOW (AP) _ Russian science is being starved into oblivion, some of the nation’s top researchers said Tuesday in announcing plans for demonstrations later this month.

To dramatize their plight, one prominent physicist, 64-year-old Vladimir Strakhov, began a hunger strike this week.

``A mafia-capitalist hog is crunching the bones of science,″ he said at a news conference with other labor leaders.

Most of the nation’s scientific institutions are part of the Russian Academy of Sciences, which has received only a fraction of the money allocated to it in the 1996 federal budget. As a result, thousands of Academy employees haven’t been paid in three months.

The labor leaders painted a grim picture: researchers without resources, young scientists deserting their profession, institutions facing a winter without heat because they can’t pay their utility bills.

Strakhov is the head of the Academy’s Institute of Earth Physics, which puts him in the top ranks of Russian scientists. He said he will continue the hunger strike until Oct. 10, when Moscow research institutions plan a demonstration to press demands for back wages and paid utility bills.

Even when Russian scientists get paid on time, their wages are modest.

The average pay at Academy research institutions is $125 to $170 a month _ about the average monthly wage in Russia.

Scientists weren’t the only ones in Russia agitating Tuesday for their paychecks.

Arctic coal miners walked off the job, the directors of some of Russia’s most famous museums warned they might have to close their doors, and civilians employees of the Ministry of Defense declared themselves on ``pre-strike″ footing.

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