Mining Disaster Protests Quashed


Today we are seeing some wildly different reports of the protests in the mining town of Mezhdurechensk, where last weekend’s disastrous methane explosions killed at least 66 people.  According to the Moscow Times, 300 people participated in the blocking of a Siberian railway line a la Pikalyvovo, whilst ITAR-TASS counts 50 people.  This article in Businessweek presents the rather distressing avowal on the part of workers that covering methane detectors is apparently a frequent practice, in order that workers can continue working, so as to reach the monthly production targets upon which their salaries depend:

“There are dozens of ways to cheat a methane detector, from making a hole in a ventilation tube to covering it with a wet rag,” Chernykh said at a meeting with authorities and company management today.
“Whole crews participate in this race for meters and tons to earn the money they need to feed their families and repay loans and mortgages,” Chernykh said.
Miners can earn 40,000 rubles ($1,300) a month if they meet production goals, or 60 percent more than their base pay of 25,000 rubles, company spokeswoman Galina Kovalchuk said. The mine, which accounts for 11 percent of the coal used by Russian steelmakers, may take a year and 5 billion rubles to fully repair, Kemerovo region Governor Aman Tuleyev said.

What is equally troubling is the reaction of Governor Aman Tuleyev, who suggests that the protest was driven by young people who ‘had been purposefully stirred up‘:

“These are mainly unemployed local gang leaders. For example, one of the detainees, Anton Gerasimov, introduced himself as a mine worker, but after a check was run it turned out that he was on the federal police’s wanted list. He was one of the initiators of the march to the railway line,” the governor said.
“Several cars carrying vodka and sandwiches were detained on the way to Mezhdurechensk last night as well. There are very many people in the city now who have no relation either to mass media or Kuzbass. It’s obvious that the people were worked up,” Tuleyev said.

Because with 24 colleagues still missing, presumed dead, in a town where workers apparently struggle to make ends meet, in a country whose decrepit infrastructure costs lives each year – who would have anything to shout about?