An explosive situation is developing in the Kuzbass, the heart of Russia’s mining industry. 66 miners were killed in an accident at work and 24 (on some accounts more) are still unaccounted for The real figure for dead miners is more like 150. Grief turned to anger at the lying and indifference of the company and government.
From reports we have seen, the riot police (OMON) had to be sent in from neighboring provinces because the local OMON could not be relied upon. The funeral saw clashes with the riot police, which further intensified the anger.
The actions of the miners, and the extraordinary proclamations we publish below, show a very high level of revolutionary class consciousness. This struggle undoubtedly represents a turning-point in the history of Russia after the fall of the USSR.
A special report from Vladimir Morozov in Russia
On the night of 8 to 9 May in the Kuzbass in the Raspadskaya mine a terrible tragedy occurred. An underground methane explosion claimed the lives of 66 miners (according to official figures), and hundreds were injured. The government suppressed news of the incident so as not to spoil the Victory celebration. Rescue operations were halted after three days.
The Raspadskaya Mine is the biggest mine in Europe, its main owner, Roman Abramovich, the billionaire, is one of the closest friends and the main sponsor of Putin. It is noteworthy that the authorities did not even bother to announce the mourning for the dead miners. For the capitalists, they are not people, but working cattle.
However, the miners themselves do not want to resign ourselves to the plight of voiceless slaves, assigned to them by the capitalists. Workers do not have to keep silent. In response, on May 14 Kuzbass miners blocked the Novokuznetsk-Abakan railway near the Gorodskaya regional station. The workers were angered by the media lies. The miners say that at least 150 miners (not 66)were killed, but what angered the miners most of all were the bosses claims that the miner's salary is 80,000 rubles. ($ 2,500). In fact, they earn 20 000 ($ 800). Therefore, the basic demand of the protesters was for a wage increase.
“Harrowing stories are told at every turn. The victims' families came, relatives of the dead and those who are still buried under the rubble of the mine. One woman brought a photo of her son, who just a few days ago started working in the mine. In tears, she cried:
“- My son was a surface worker. He was not supposed to be inside the mine. He was on the fourth shift. Why? Why they were sent into the mine after the first explosion? He is now in hospital near death. Our men died because of money. But I want to say more. Now the families of the dead will get some money. But what will our children live on? If they paid a living wage, this accident would not have happened. They're going to pay us 10,000, on which one can not live, - said another miner”. (Kp.ru)
The miners wanted to talk with the administration about all these things. However, two days of meetings at the central square led to nothing. The government and the management of the mine simply ignored the demands of the people. Then the miners blocked the Novokuznetsk-Abakan railway in the Gorodskaya regional station. In response, the authorities summoned the riot police. But because noody in the Kuzbass was willing to disperse their desperate countrymen, they had to call in riot police from neighboring regions.
The trains were stopped at 1.5 hours. The riot police tried to dislodge the people from the railway tracks. Blows from their batons rained down on the heads of women and children. The workers began to resist throwing stones and metal fittings at the riot started. The riot police were unable to contain the miners’ attack, and retreated. The people are once again regrouped on the railway lines. But during the night police reinforcements arrived and the OMON managed to finally push the protesters back. During the fighting 17 policemen and a lot of miners were injured, and 28 workers were arrested.
The governor of the Kuzbass, Amman Tuleyev (a former member of the Communist Party), called the protesters “criminal elements who are trying to destabilize the situation”. Nevertheless, he had to make some concessions to the miners. Now the authorities have blocked all roads in the breakaway region. Even Nina Otsanina, a Kuzbass member of parliament and member of the Communist Party Duma faction, , was not allowed into Mezhdurechensk. On the way, it was arranged for her car to “break down”, after which she was detained by police. Additional militia units were drafted into the city.
Nevertheless, the miners are not going to stop the fight. They are determined to defend their claims. The miners can recall the experience of the strikes in 1989 and "railway war" in 1998 Unfortunately, they do not have an organizing force, and for the time being the movement has a completely spontaneous character, although some workers have already begun to realize the necessity of organization and the need to work out a programme of common demands.
Open letter of the Union of Kuzbass residents to the President, the people of Russia and the inhabitants of Kuzbass
At a time when billions of dollars are being made on our backs, upon which they are building their palaces and villas where our Prime Minister goes to enjoy himself, we're dying by the hundreds in the mines, and our people are destroying themselves for the sake of a few pennies.
The recent developments in Mezhdurechensk were the last straw for us – we can stand it no more.
We will not be slaves, working cattle, who can be ignored, as some of the people in power would like to see. We are tired of slavery and humiliation. Enough is enough!
We appeal to President Medvedev – assuming, of course, that he is our president, and not something else.
Our demands are as follows:
- Release all those arrested in Mezhdurechensk in the next few days, cease all harassment. Stop the insults and slander against the inhabitants of the city in the central media
- A tripling of wages in the all profitable mines in the region, starting with those on the minimum wage, which must not be less than 45.000 rubles. It is precisely because of low wages that there are so many violations of safety, as a result of which our people are dying by the hundreds
- Cease the persecution of independent trade union activities aimed at protecting the interests of the workers. Those who are guilty of persecution should be severely punished
- Withdrawal from Mezhdurechensk of the Interior Ministry forces brought from other cities
- The holding in every city of a monthly mass people's meeting, at which with the head of the city administration must give a report to the people of all the measures useful to the people that have been carried out in the past month, respond personally to questions, and receive petitions and appeals from citizens
No other solutions will satisfy us.
We look forward to your response, Mr. President of Russia. We will wait for your answer until Friday morning, May 21.
In the event of non-compliance with our requirements, we will be obliged to speak and act to achieve political, rather than social demands.
We now address ourselves to our fellow countrymen.
In order that our demands be listened to by the highest authorities – we are going on Saturday May 22, to the administration buildings of our cities. At exactly 16.00.
The list of cities where we will hold general meetings of the citizens, and where our initiative teams will be acting are as follows:
Kemerovo, Novokuznetsk, Prokopyevsk, Leninsk-Kuznetsk, Mezhdurechensk, Anzhero-Sudzhensk, Belovo, Berezovsky, Kaltan, Kemerovo, Kiselevsk, Myski, Osinniki, Polysayevo
We invite not only the miners and their families, but anyone who does not completely indifferent to the overall situation in our land. Let the officials come out and give us the answer to our demands. And we will accept nothing less than the fulfillment of all our requirements.
We issue a stern warning to the Minister and the Governor Nurgalieva Tuleyev not to “fool around” with us, like they did on the evening of 14 May in Mezhdurechensk. Don’t even think about it!
We know that we are not listened to. And instead of talking to us, you call in the riot squads. Therefore:
1) We appeal to all parties and social structures of the country. We ask for your support. At least send an official statement that you support our demands and are ready to join with other parties to help us – that you will do what you can to help our self-defense. If you do not make your official position clear by May 21, this will mean that you are actually against the people. And this will be brought to the attention of the whole country. To date we see that the representative of only one party has tried to help us, while the rest remain silent. We need information, legal assistance, which is already required by our brothers arrested in Mezhdurechensk, and other assistance from you, including organizational help.
2) We ask all media outlets that are not for sale: to tell people about our demands
Send us their representatives on May 22
Publish truthful information about the events out here, not the lies spewed out on TV
3) We call upon all the citizens of Russia, due to the fact that we are subjected to an information blockade, our forums, groups and social networks are blocked by the FSB (State Security Service), and whatever remains is teeming with the paid mercenaries, government employees and policemen, who are posing as normal people and deceiving the people of this land with their lies:
Tell the truth to your friends and broadcast it on the Internet, give out all the information about the events that are going on here, so that the whole country may know what is happening here and so that they cannot crush us. For if they crush us today - tomorrow you will be next!
4) We appeal to the local residents:
Draw up lists all those who live in your city, and who will attack our people's self-defense - government officials, policemen etc. Keep them and publish them on the internet, post them in the streets. The whole town must know their surnames: the families of those who are willing to beat women, as happened in Mezhdurechensk - should be ashamed of their fathers, brothers and sons. If you know someone who is being sent to beat our people in other cities - collect information about them, too.
Make your own flyers with our demands and about the venue of our meeting on May 22, and post them in the streets and on the houses
Tell all your friends and acquaintances about the meeting.
Do not believe anyone who says that our action was canceled, even if they supposedly speak for us, and ignore all the other false slander, which has been flooding all the bribed media
Organize collections for our general fund to aid our detained brothers and relatives
Do not succumb to the propaganda of corrupt pseudo-activists, who have been bribed by the authorities
Make yourself a white neckerchief, and wear it when you come to the gathering on May 22
Set up autonomous cells of the Union of Kuzbass Residents.
We will see you on the streets of our cities on May 22.
For freedom and justice!
The central headquarters of the Union of Kuzbass Residents
May 16, 2010