Russian Hunger Striker to Break Fast

MOSCOW--A 10-day hunger strike over the dismal state of Russian science is about to end. Protester Vladimir Strakhov, director-general of the Russian Academy of Science's Schmidt Institute of Earth Physics in Moscow, told Science today that he is satisfied with the Russian government's response to his complaints and plans to end his strike tomorrow.

His ordeal nearly over, Strakhov says he is in good spirits, buoyed by the outpouring of support he's received from his Russian colleagues. For instance, more than 2000 people took to the streets of downtown Moscow yesterday to decry the fact that the 300-odd RAS institutes have received just 68% of the funding due to them by the end of July.

Strakhov says he decided to end his strike after receiving two key promises earlier today. The first came from Russian President Boris Yeltsin, who in a speech concerning the 1997 budget mentioned Strakhov by name and pledged to restore full funding to the institutes without delay. Yeltsin also guaranteed that scientists would receive their full salaries each month. The clincher, however, came after the speech in a phone call to Strakhov from a top academy official. Strakhov says the official, whom he refused to name, told him the government would pay off its $75 million debt to the academy by the end of the year.