Miners’ Strike in the LPR: What the Ukrainian Media Will Never Say

The Ukrainian media zealously rushed to cover the miners’ strikes in the non-controlled territory of the Lugansk region who have not been paid for several months. But the conclusions made were, as usual, lopsided and propagandistic, from the series “Look at how ‘terrorists’ bankrupt mines and mock workers who would be better off living under Ukraine”. However, not being propagandists, let’s look at the problem in terms of facts and dry figures.

To begin with, the enterprise “Antratsit”, where the events described are taking place, became bankrupt in March 2013, i.e. under the Ukrainian authorities, since it owed creditors more than 36 million hryvnias. This, of course, is not all. But first we will explain what is really happening at the “Komsomolskaya” mine.

For the fourth day the villages are ablaze, the don land is burning under their feet

On April 22nd of this year, 173 miners from the “Komsomolskaya” mine, on the territory of the Lugansk region not controlled by Ukraine, descended into the eastern drift and went on strike. Workers have not seen their salaries, about 240 million rubles, since January. Since some kind of “restructuring” (in fact, the liquidation of unprofitable coal mining enterprises) was due to start on May 1st, workers were afraid that wages for January-March would be frozen and they would never see them.

That same night, the General Director of the new management company “Vostokugol” (created instead of the old “Antratsit” company) Vladimir Shatokhin brought about 5 million rubles to the mine.

“Either you get the money in the morning and stop the strike, or I block your cards and create problems with the Ministry of State Security,” said Shatokhin, according to Aleksandr Vaskovsky, co-chairman of the Independent Miners Union.

Workers did not respond to the threats, and after half an hour the General Director was forced to offer a salary for January-February, and until the end of April – for March. So the money was surprisingly found, and on April 23rd, the miners resumed work.

As always, the owner fulfils the legitimate demands of the workers only when their collective actions hit his pocket. As soon as the strike stopped, the promises were broken — only half of the money was paid for March, and by the end of May, the miners did not see their salaries for April. Moreover, the cost of labour was reduced.

On the evening of June 5th, the second shift of workers suspended their work and remained in the pit bottom. The mine’s management did not allow buses to pass and thus the third shift could not join the strike, but the miners were able to get to the mine on their own. By June 6th, 150 people were already on strike. The next day, General Director Shatokhin came down to them and, according to trade unions, said that the mine is currently a ballast, and in order for it to reach the level of profitability, they need to invest a lot of money in it, and the debts will be repaid as as profits are made.

On June 7th the police appeared near the mine, blocking access to the enterprise. Thus, the miners and their wives stopped receiving food and water. In addition, a strange quarantine was “unexpectedly” declared in the Antratsitovsky district – all transport was stopped, but neither stores nor markets were closed. No less “unexpectedly”, MTS-Vodafone mobile communications stopped working, and “Lugakom” and “Matrix” Internet providers blocked the VKontakte and YouTube network.

On June 8th the Minister of Fuel and Coal Industry of the LPR Pavel Malgin arrived at the mine. He said that so far only 50 million rubles have been found for miners, but they will continue to look for money. Thus, the salary for May was covered, but debts for March and April are still owed. According to the General Director of “Vostokugol” Shatokhin, these are the debts of the old management company and “Vostokugol” has nothing to do with them. So the miners’ fears of freezing old debts due to “restructuring” (which is why the strike began in April) turned out to be a reality.

According to trade unionists on social networks, in the evening of the same day, the mine’s power supply was cut, as a result of which ventilation and drainage stopped. Lugansk Telegram channels wrote that the mine was just switched to another line, so electricity temporarily disappeared. However, why at 10 in the evening a switch was carried out for a striking and inoperative mine is a mystery.

Meanwhile, the Prosecutor-General’s Office of the self-proclaimed LPR checked the old management company of “Antratsit”, revealed numerous violations, and put one of the former leaders of the company on the wanted list. It also seems that the director of the “Komsomolskaya” mine, Yury Dyuba, was charged under article 158 of the Criminal Code of the LPR (non-payment of wages).

Striking LPR miners undermine the Ukrainian defence industry

But are the problems with mining wages the result of the poverty of the warring unrecognised republics (the Ukrainian authorities, by the way, also explain low salaries and pensions by referring to the war)? The trade union newspaper “Miner of Donbass” proves otherwise: “One miner in the DPR and LPR accounts for 150 tons of coal mined per month. At the selling cost of coal of $50 (per ton), 150 tons of coal x $50 = $7,500. The average salary of a miner in the DPR and LPR is $170. For the extraction of each ton of coal, the capitalist spends $8 of permanent capital (support, electricity, depreciation, etc.), which for 150 tons of coal produced per month will amount to $1,200. Thus, for 150 tons of coal, minus the spent permanent capital, the capitalist will receive $7,500 minus $1,200 = $6,300. The labour of each miner of the DPR and LPR brings in $6,300 per month. The surplus value created by each miner after deducting his salary is $6,300 minus $170 = $6,130 per month.”

So it turns out that even a miner’s salary of $2,000 cannot bankrupt the owner of the mine, who will have another $4,130 from each worker per month.

The State Statistics Service says that at the beginning of 2020, more than 61% of energy coal was supplied to Ukraine from Russia. Deposits of coal of anthracite grades, which are needed for the work of many Ukrainian thermal power plants, remained in the non-controlled part of the Lugansk region. Therefore, anthracite is almost 100% imported to Ukraine from the Russian Federation, which once again proves that the “Ukrainian-Russian war” happens only in the media, which criminally incites ethnic hatred, and that the conflict in Donbass is a civil one. Moreover, “fighting” against the influence of Russia, this spring the Rada introduced a 65% duty on coal imports except, but for some reason, for anthracite coal. It turns out that ordinary citizens of Ukraine should kill each other and die for the interests of the oligarchs and the various state bodies they feed, which make money very well from the conflict. But okay, military operations are not officially being conducted against Russia (despite the howls of the media and a number of specific politicians). It seems that the ultra-patriotic (“Ukraine above all”, etc.) authorities are trading with “separatists and terrorists” from the L/DPR.

Thus, Dmitry Marunich, co-chairman of the Energy Strategies Foundation, said: “According to my data obtained from a reliable source, tens of thousands of tons of anthracite from Donbass mines are transported to LLC ‘Ros’ every month to be sent to Ukraine by train – either to Ukrainian buyers or (as an option) – in transit through Ukraine to European companies. For example, in March and April, 18,000 tons of such coal entered the territory of Ukraine. This is a lot of money, which is used to finance the army and the people who run the illegal republics.”

Indeed, coal from non-controlled territories, especially after the shutdown of the “Pavlogradugol” mines, feeds most Ukrainian thermal power stations, as well as 100% of coke plants.

It turns out that Ukrainian patriotic oligarchs/energy producers and the Ukrainian army fighting in Donbass, financed from taxes paid by both the oligarchs themselves and their employees, are maintained by “terroristic” money. You’re all tied up in it, gentlemen, that’s the thing. And a special joke is that with their strike, L/DPR miners, whom the Ukrainian media unexpectedly stood up for, who undermine Ukrainian electricity generation, the coke and chemical industry and, as a result, the entire defence industry.

An interesting picture – without Donbass coal, Ukraine can not fight, but by paying for it, it supports “terrorists”, which falls under article 258-5 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (financing terrorism), under which a lot of people are being tried today, for example, for paying taxes to the L/DPR.

Not only the Kiev authorities are linked to “terrorists” via Donbass coal

“From March 2017 to December 2018, 5.9 million tons of coal were exported from the separate districts of Donetsk and Lugansk regions [non-controlled parts of Donbass – ed]. Almost half of this volume, 2.5 million tons, were sent to EU countries,” the Slovak journalist Tomáš Forró and his Polish colleagues Karolina Baca-Pogorzelska and Michal Potocki found out as a result of their investigation.

Is it necessary to conclude from this that, crushing the strike, “terroristic” officials play into the hands of Kiev, and the Ukrainian media, standing up for the miners, plays into the hands of “terrorists”? Not to mention the governments of the EU countries, which, pretend support Ukraine, but at the same time buy a bit of coal from the “separatists”. Only such a conclusion can be made. The owners of factories and steamboats have one common interest – coal must go, money must trickle.

When the Ukrainian media suffer because of the suffering of “Antratsit” miners, it would be desirable to add that this suffering is brought, besides L/DPR officials, by the Ukrainian oligarchs tied to them by the same monetary chain and the Ukrainian government controlled by them. So who is the real separatist and who in reality is fighting against whom? Workers in controlled and non-controlled territories do not have a reason to fight against each other. They’re not interested in this.

In whose interests has there been a fratricidal war for 6 years?

Pavel Volkov

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