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BBC Monitoring
Jobless miners go for booze, drugs in Russia's Far East
Source: TVS, Moscow, in Russian 1100 gmt 4 Jun 03

[Presenter] Acts of protests have started in Vladivostok. Miners are demanding that the Maritime Territory authorities should give them a chance to work, but in vain for the time being. A pit has been idle for six months already. Maksim Borisov reports from the scene.

[Correspondent] The workers of the Zapadnyy open pit were supposed to start work on 1 June after six months of enforced idleness. However, instead of this they came out for a rally. On the previous day, the power supply to the pit was cut off, allegedly on the orders of Primorskugol, a local coal monopoly.

[Valeriy Usachev, Zapadnyy chief engineer, captioned] Unofficially, it was said that this land could not have two owners. But listen, a lot of money was invested in this project, and it was not Primorskugol, but others who did that. Why should somebody build something for somebody else - and give it away like that?

[Correspondent] A telephone call to the Primorskugol office failed to clarify the situation. The company's top managers refused to meet us.

Today, just 12 m. of soil has to be removed at the Zapadnyy pit to open a coal layer containing germanium, a valuable metal. However, due to the lack of the electric power, the water is quickly filling the ditch and pretty soon the level of the new lake might be well above my head.

People are trying to dismantle the pump to prevent it going under water. Cranes and heavy BelAZ trucks are staying idle - one cannot fill them up with a shovel.

[Viktor Bolotin, Zapadnyy crane operator, captioned] All the hardware is in working order. Just oil it - and off you go for medals [reference to the Soviet tradition of awarding best workers] [Passage omitted]

[Correspondent] One hundred and fifty workers have lost hope of getting a job again. In the village of Novoshakhtinskiy, where miners from Zapadnyy and other local pits live, we visit the house of Andrey Ivanov, a BelAZ driver. Now his family budget is made up of his wife's wages - R1,500 [50 dollars] - and child benefits - R300. Just for a comparison: the Ivanovs' rent and utilities bills run as high as R12,000.

[Ivanov, Zapadnyy driver, captioned, showing an empty fridge] Well, I have a small country house as well - it is not mine, but my mother-in-law's. This helps us a lot [to grow vegetables]. I have four kids and have to feed them somehow.

[Correspondent] The village is hit hard by mass unemployment and poverty. The elder people kill time with a bottle, the younger ones are on drugs. Local boys show us hemp plants just five meters away from a five-storey block of flats.

[Unidentified young guy drinking] That's plonk. Well, we drink plonk and vodka.

[His drinking pal] There is nothing else to do here. The funniest thing is that there is no work.

[Correspondent] The village employment office has a list of 700 people in search of job. Still, there are just two vacancies for the miners, and these are street-cleaners.

[Video shows miners' rally, the open pit and local scenes]

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