Metallurgy workers threatened Friday to join an anti-Kremlin miners' strike, and secessionist rail workers in Georgia tightened their stranglehold on cargo traffic, increasing pressure on Mikhail Gorbachev.
The embattled Soviet president, trying to counter the spreading strikes, issued a decree Friday night giving officials of the republics and local governments one week to resume deliveries of raw materials and other goods from their regions.Gorbachev did not say what would happen if the deliveries did not resume, and the decree seemed little more than a faint shout against a chorus demanding his resignation, the main goal of most strikers.
There appeared to be no way Gorbachev could enforce the decree short of force, which proved damaging to his authority when Soviet troops attacked Baltic secessionists in January.
In the southern republic of Georgia, which declared independence Tuesday, Soviet Interior Ministry troops rounded up militiamen and confiscated arms, the independent news agency Postfactum said.
Clashes between troops and Georgian nationalists were reported in the mountainous region of South Ossetia. The predominantly Muslim Ossetians seek independence for their enclave from traditionally Christian Georgia.
Protesting the presence of federal troops, rail workers in Georgia have halted rail traffic through the republic, stranding about 80 trains loaded with food, medicine, raw materials and other goods, news reports said.
Only 310 out of 5,500 freight cars in about two days have made it through Georgia to their destination in Armenia, the state news agency Tass said.
Georgian leader Zviad Gamsakhurdia announced the strike on Thursday and said the Kremlin might be preparing for a military crackdown. "It looks like we should expect a broad anti-Georgian campaign," Gamsakhurdia told reporters in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi.
An estimated 300,000 coal miners from the Ukraine to the Pacific Ocean remained on strike, six weeks after scattered strikes began demanding pay raises. Demands have grown to include sweeping government changes, including Gorbachev's ouster and the transfer of national power to leaders of the 15 republics.
Workers from metallurgical mines and plants in the Ural Mountains city of Chelyabinsk endorsed the coal miners' demands Friday and voted to take action themselves unless officials consider their demands by April 20, according to the state news agency Tass.
Tass did not say how many workers were represented or exactly what they were demanding. But it reported their plight "was comparable to that of the strikers - they are also underpaid and their social programs are not being carried out."
Meanwhile, leaders of the mass 11/2-day strike in the Byelorussian capital of Minsk met Friday with republic officials to set a schedule for talks on their demands, which include the resignation of the republic's leaders.