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Tuesday, 19 May, 1998, 15:54 GMT 16:54 UK
Scientists join Russia's striking miners
Russian miners block the Trans-Siberian railway
Striking coal miners block a section of railway
Strikes in Russia against unpaid salaries are gathering pace, with scientists joining miners - some of whom have not been paid for six months - in blocking roads and railways.

About 200 maritime scientists in the Russian Far East blocked the Vladivostok highway on Tuesday to demand better salaries.

The latest in a series of additions to the protest, they joined 200 doctors, teachers and other public sector workers showing support for the miners.

Vladivostok station
Vladivostok - one of the ends of the line on the Trans-Siberian railway
Miners are continuing to blockade the Trans-Siberian railway at Anzhero-Sudzhenskin station.

After more than 50 trains on the Trans-Siberian route - including 20 passenger trains - were halted by the miners, trains are now making a diversion of about 1,000km.

But as miners in neighbouring regions are planning to block the only alternative route, government officials in Moscow have described the situation on the railways as approaching crisis point.

Union leaders say the miners are owed more than $1bn in wage arrears.

On Friday, Russia's Prime Minister, Sergei Kiriyenko, urged parliament to endorse emergency legislation to help pay off about $600m owing to the coal miners in wage arrears.

The bill, which will cut a quarter of bureaucratic spending by parliament, was overwhelmingly approved on a first reading, but two further readings are required for the measure to pass.

The second and third readings of the legislation, presented in person by the prime minister, will be held on Wednesday.

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