PRIME Minister Valentin Pavlov has issued a dramatic appeal to striking coal miners to return to work to prevent the Soviet Union from plunging headlong into economic collapse. Speaking on Soviet television Saturday, he said he was ready to discuss pay and living conditions with miners but said there could be no talks against what he called a background of ultimatums.
"If [the strike] continues, even to the slightest degree, then we can say now that all of us, including the miners, will have to work for several years to repair the damage," he said.
Nearly 100 pits remained idle in the country's two largest coalfields - Western Siberia's Kuzbass and the Ukraine's Donbass region, Soviet television reported. Ten of 13 mines in the polar Pechora basin were also on strike.
"I would like to ask them to resume work by Monday at the latest," Mr. Pavlov said. "Then, I think, the country will sigh with relief. The entire country cannot be kept under such tension."
Several thousand miners were shown on television demonstrating in the Ukrainian city of Donetsk.
Many held signs demanding the resignation of Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.
"While the miners stand firm, the economy is worsening throughout the country, creeping closer and closer to the abyss," a reporter said.
Pavlov said Soviet industry was receiving only 220,000 of the 340,000 tons needed daily to operate efficiently.