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NOVOKUZNETSK, RUSSIA: More than one million frustrated Russian and Ukrainian coal miners walked off their jobs Thursday in a mass attempt to extract hundreds of millions of dollars in back pay from their governments. Both Moscow and Kiev are unable to pay the bill for many state-owned enterprises: Russia owes the miners more than $200 million, and Ukraine is $367 million in debt. The International Monetary Fund and the foreign press quickly saw the makings of a panic in the strike's detrimental effect on industry, Russia's dwindling coal reserves and the bitter winter cold. But TIME's Sally Donnelly, in Moscow, cautions: "If the miners strike for an extended time, or if other industries follow them, the strike could be serious. However, Boris Yeltsin is likely to make financial concessions to key sectors of the economy as this year's presidential election approaches. It will make the IMF nervous, but they'll let him coast since the alternative if he loses is a communist or a Zhirinovsky."