MOSCOW — Miners' strikes have now gripped the whole of Siberia's Kuznetsk coal basin, the Soviet Union's second largest coal field. More than 80,000 men are now on strike, the newspaper Pravda said Sunday, many of them occupying town centers and picketing government offices. The strikes, which flared up last week, are potentially a threat to the Soviet leadership. Most social unrest so far has been confined to the country's periphery, but the Kuznetsk basin is deep in the Russian heartland. There are signs that the Moscow leadership is trying to turn the incidents to its advantage in the struggle with conservative party leaders.
Press coverage has been gentle to the strikers, stressing that their demands are within the framework of reforms that the Soviet leadership is trying to carry out. The demands center on economic autonomy for the region and giving the miners more say in running their own pits.
The spread of the strikes has coincided with more unrest in the south. Following clashes in the Republic of Tadzhikistan late last week, violent demonstrations were reported over the weekend in the Georgian city of Sukhumi.