Striking workers at the country's largest coal mine returned to work Wednesday after the Russian Federation agreed to take over control of the pits from the national government, their union said.

The return to work was the first major crack in a 7-week-old strike that spread to all major coal fields and curbed production in other industries.The official Tass news agency quoted mine director Alexander Yevtushenko as saying coal shipments from the Raspadskaya Mine in western Siberia would resume Thursday.

Yevtushenko was quoted as saying the mine - the first to sign an agreement with the Russian Federation - would be converted into a joint-stock company, a limited form of private ownership in which companies and individuals could purchase shares.

The strike began March 1, and triggered sympathy strikes in some industries and strike threats by many others. About 300,000 of the country's 1.2 million miners took part in the walkout.

The coal miners began with demands for higher wages and better working conditions but have added political demands.

The move by some miners to return to work comes one day after the Supreme Soviet legislature gave preliminary approval to a law banning political strikes. Some lawmakers called that a step backward for the country's fragile democracy.