The angry strikers held a rally and protests both above the ground and below because their paypackets are less than half of what they should be. 

The miners, from Russia's Urals region, said they would not return to work until their wages are paid in full.

Apart from the 6000 protesters above ground, some 300 miners stayed underground to demand that their coal-producing company return them an estimated 500 million rubles (16 million dollars) in unpaid wages and raise their salaries to 1000 dollars a month, the RTR television reported.

The miners' current monthly salary is 13,000 rubles (430 dollars), but they rarely get more than 6000 rubles, Alexander Anisimov, deputy chief of the miners' trade union, was quoted as saying by the UralBusinessConsulting news agency.

"If these demands are not met shortly, one of the steps miners plan to take is to rally at the company's office when President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder come to the Urals," Anisimov warned.

The miners' monthyl salary is 13,000 rubles but they rarely get more than 6000

Alexander Anisimov, deputy chief of miners' trade union

Working conditions

Putin and Schroeder are expected in the region's capital of Yekaterinburg on October 8-9, for talks focusing on Iraq and trade.

There have also been complaints about working conditions in some mines in Russia.

Earlier this year Russian television NTV showed dramatic pictures of rescuers going to the tunnels after an accident in the Ziminka coal mine in the Kemerevo region, some 3000 km East of Moscow, 17 June 2003.

A gas explosion in the mine killed 11 miners and trapped four others. Up to 21 miners were underground when the blast occurred and a roof construction at the 69-year-old mine caved in.

Three managed to escape themselves and another two were brought out and had to be hospitalised