Russian TV strike settled

MOSCOW — Russia’s prime minister Thursday appeared to have persuaded communications workers to end a blackout of television programs that left Russians bereft of their much-loved U.S. and Mexican soap operas.

After a day in which frustrated viewers bombarded state-run television stations with angry phone calls, premier Viktor Chernomyrdin announced the government would immediately begin to pay debts owed to transmission facilities.

Itar-Tass news agency quoted the coordinating committee of the communication workers’ trade union as saying that, in the light of Chernomyrdin’s action and his appeal for a return to work, the action would be suspended.

The most vocal protest was lodged by addicts of “Simply Maria,” a Mexican-produced soap, and the U.S.-made “Santa Barbara,” both of which keep millions of viewers spellbound each week.

Tass said about 40% of state-radio listeners across Russia were unable to tune in.

The communications workers blacked out programs by the two nationwide TV networks and silenced state-run radio across much of the vast federation.

The trade union, which represents workers at technical installations, said transmission centers could not pay salaries to their employees unless broadcasting companies paid debts for 1993 in full.

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