|Workers from Lviv Coal Company picket government office in Kiev June 11, demanding months of back wages. Signs include, “Give us work and back wages” and “No mine closures.”|
On June 21, a truckload of armed thugs from the “Donetsk People’s Republic” seized the office of the DTEK Komsomolets Donbassa mine, reported Worldcoal.com news. They trapped 700 miners underground and fired on hundreds of second-shift miners to keep them away; kidnapped two mine directors; and stole 22 vehicles and ATM machines loaded with the pay miners were to get the next day.
More than 1,000 miners the following day marched from the mine to the center of Kirovsky, where they were joined by hundreds of area residents. They demanded separatists lay down their arms and start peace talks with the government.
“You want people to support you,” Sergei Podgirniak, a worker in section two of the mine, told the crowd, speaking about the attackers, reported DTEK media center. But “your actions drive people away. What happened yesterday was a crime.”
“Such terrorist activities at the mines in Donbass have become a habit” for the paramilitaries, Mikhailo Volynets, president of the Independent Trade Union of Coal Miners of Ukraine, said after the attack. “The Sverdlovsk Antratsyt and Rovenki Antratsyt mines were seized by separatists in May. They shut down Metinvest company mines in Sukhodolsk and Molodogvardeisk. The separatists seek to destabilize the region, deprive miners of their work and destroy the economy.”
On June 11, members of the miners’ union at the Lviv Coal Company processing plant in western Ukraine picketed the Kiev offices of the Cabinet of Ministers, reported the Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Ukraine. They have not been paid for February, March and April. “We have been in constant struggle for scanty wages since 2012,” Olga Shkoropad, president of the union local at the plant, told demonstrators, demanding action from the Poroshenko government.
Meanwhile, tens of thousands of workers have fled Slovyansk, Donetsk and other areas in the east where separatists are operating, seeking refuge largely in central and western Ukraine. The number grew by 16,400 over the last week alone, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reported June 27, to a total of 54,400. Refugees cite “worsening law and order, fear of abductions, human rights violations and the disruption of state services” as the reasons for their flight, the U.N. said.
The overwhelming majority of assistance to refugees is being organized by volunteer groups like Euromaidan SOS in Kiev, which was set up to aid families of those killed in the battles that overthrew the regime of President Viktor Yanukovych in February.
“The press publishes reports of people taking advantage of our help, of people in refugee shelters asking for vodka and cigarettes instead of food,” said Alesey Ryabchyn, a student who moved from Donetsk two weeks ago with his wife and daughter and is now volunteering with Euromaidan SOS. “Don’t believe such stories. This conflict has brought out the best in the Ukrainian people. Our priority is helping those in need, no matter what side they’re on.”
A woman and her husband decided to take in some refugees, she posted on her website francevna1. Two women, Anna and Valya, from Kramatorsk came.
“A real information war is underway where they came from,” the woman said. “They thought that people in central Ukraine hated the Donetsk people, that horrific Banderites are standing on the roads to Kiev — those from Maidan — with rifles, to shoot at people from Donbass.”
“You know, when I tell my guys how we were greeted here, nobody will believe me,” she said Anna told her.
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