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17 May, 2010 13:04

Putin suggests radical measures to improve safety in Russian mines

In wake of the Raspadskaya coal mine disaster, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Monday that the State Technical Inspection must be given the right to close mines on suspicion of violation of safety rules.

In addition, he declared that the officials in charge of the facilities should be suspended if rules are broken.

The Prime Minister also said that the mine personnel must not suffer during such forced lay offs – he suggested that miners receive their average salary calculated for the quarter previous to the one when the mine is closed.

Both statements were made during a telephone conference with various Russian officials concerning the recent disaster in Raspadskaya coal mine in the Kemerovo Region, South Siberia, which claimed about 100 lives.

Putin noted that the State Technical Inspection (Rostekhnadzor) had repeatedly noted safety violations at Raspadskaya coal mine and in 2009 the agency filed in four lawsuits seeking the dismissal of the mine director Igor Volkov.

“Last year the safety standards regulator issued numerous complaints on different violations at the mine,” Vladimir Putin said. “The watchdog went to court four times with lawsuits to disqualify and dismiss the mine’s director – [Igor] Volkov – who is now present at the meeting. But there has been no reaction. After this recent tragedy at the mine, Mr. Volkov is still working.”

Putin said the watchdog will now be directly overseen by the government.

The Prime Minister also asked the Prosecutor’s Office to find out what happened to the billions of roubles allocated to improving safety.

Emergency teams at the Siberian mine are warning there is a danger of more explosions.

Sixty-six people died in the tragedy and 24 others are still unaccounted for.