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Report: Russia Ambulances on Strike

August 6, 1998

MOSCOW (AP) _ Striking ambulance workers in the port city of Vladivostok have ignored dozens of calls for medical help this week, referring the ill to outpatient clinics or offering telephone consultation, news reports said Thursday.

Usually, 30 ambulance teams are on duty, but only four are currently on the job. They are responding only to life-threatening situations, calls involving children under age 2, and pregnant women going into labor, the ITAR-Tass and Interfax news agencies reported.

It was unclear if any of the 186 callers who were denied services suffered any major health problems as a result.

The ambulance workers, who began their strike this week, are demanding four months of unpaid wages.

The Vladivostok prosecutor’s office opened a criminal investigation into the local government’s failure to finance the ambulance service, and urged striking workers to return to the job, Interfax reported.

Protests over back wages have swept over Russia in recent months. But the protests have rarely been coordinated, and workers’ pay is still arriving months late.

On the eastern island of Sakhalin, striking miners allowed a limited coal delivery to reach a key power plant after a nearly two-week blockade.

The miners, who are demanding eight months’ back wages, negotiated a truce Tuesday, agreeing to allow enough coal through to keep the plant running. But some protesters refused to leave the tracks for another day.

Local authorities have accused the miners of causing serious economic damage by interrupting preparations for winter, ITAR-Tass said.

Sakhalin, with a population of 650,000, depends on the plant for its power. Authorities have been rationing electricity out of fear the plant would run out of fuel if coal deliveries did not arrive.

Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov announced Thursday that the government will stop financing mining regions where unpaid workers block railroads, ITAR-Tass and Interfax reported.

On the eastern Kamchatka peninsula, about 100 municipal workers blocked a highway used for transporting salmon caught off Kamchatka’s west coast, Interfax said. More than 30 trucks loaded with fish had been stalled on the road by Thursday evening, it said.

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