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MOSCOW, March 29 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's wage arrears slightly exceeded a lump 12 billion rubles, January last. R27.82/$1 is the official Central Bank rate for today.

"Summary wage arrears amounted to 12.2 billion rubles, as of January 1-half of what we had by January 1, 2004," announced Maxim Topilin, Federal Labor and Employment Service chief.

Corporate money shortages accounted for 92 per cent of the arrears, he added.

Farm workers made 45 per cent of employees who did not get their wages in time, industrial workers 29 per cent, and social welfare and consumer services employees 16 per cent.

Labor remuneration checks resulted in 26,000 company managers and other functionaries brought to administrative responsibility and fined, with back wages paid to more than three million employees, Mr. Topilin went on.

Occupational accidents also offer alarming figures, casualties exceeding 4,500 in 2004.

"Occupational accidents in companies of all economic fields and branches killed 4,663 throughout the country last year-11.8 per cent less than the year before."

Industrial accident fatality came down last year in 61 constituent entities of the Russian Federation. An increase was reported in 18 entities of diverse geography-in particular, Mordovia on the Volga, Khakassia in Siberia's south, North Ossetia/Alania (North Caucasus) and the Kaliningrad Region on the Baltic coast.

The number of deaths in coal mining accidents increased by 46 per cent, and 2.6-fold in petroleum-processing industry throughout the year, pointed out Mr. Topilin.

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