Authorities in the west Siberian town of Mezhdurechensk, where blasts killed at least 66 miners on May 8-9, have vowed to crack down hard on troublemakers at an unsanctioned protest due to take place on Saturday.
On May 14, a demonstration in the town over safety and wages at the Raspadskaya mine resulted in a blockade of a local railway line. Riot police, confronted by stone-throwing protestors, made 28 arrests.
Kemerovo Region governor Aman Tuleyev said no miners were involved in the demonstration and blamed “drunk young people” for starting the trouble.
However, an anonymous source at the Rosuglprof coal worker’s union told the English-language The Moscow News paper that nine miners from the Raspadskaya mine and three workers from other mines were among those detained.
The previously unknown and unregistered Union of Kuzbass Residents has called for new protests across the region on Saturday, including in Mezhdurechensk.
“If anyone again tries to shut down the railway line…all necessary legal means will be employed to maintain calm in the town,” mayor Sergei Shcherbakov told a news conference.
However, while the police presence in the town is noticeable larger, there is as yet no sign of any protestors.
Miners say that they are under intense pressure to ignore warnings of dangerous methane levels in the pits in order to fulfill their quotas, with wages of around $1,300 a month falling by some 30% if they fail to meet production targets.
The already volatile situation in the town looks set to be shaken up even further by the promised visit of “psychic healer” Gregory Grabovoi, released on parole midway through an eight-year jail sentence on Friday.
Grabovoi, who was jailed in 2005 on fraud charges after offering “resurrection services” – including to the mothers of the children killed at the Beslan school siege – has said he will come to the region to look for the 24 miners yet to be located after the blasts.
“If he cons people, we will grab him by the scruff of the neck and chuck him out of here,” the mayor said.