Ukraine Solidarity: interview with the Donbas miners

Chartist is pleased to once again provide space for Ukraine Socialist Solidarity and its continued exposure of the lives of Ukrainian miners. The plight of Ukrainian miners, and those in Donbas, is given further exposure courtesy of an interview with Sergey Yunak, president of the Western Donbas Miners Union.

At the invitation of the National Union of Mineworkers a delegation from the Trade Union of Coal Industry of Ukraine (PRUP) from the Western Donbas visited the UK. They took part in the Durham Miners Gala and the chairman of the Dnepropetrovsk territorial organization of PRUPU Sergey Yunak addressed the Gala. PRUP is one of the told miners unions in Ukraine and is affiliated to the Federation of Trade Union of Ukraine. The following interview was conducted with Sergey by Mick Antoniw of the Ukraine Solidarity Campaign, and member of the National Assembly for Wales.

Mick Antoniw: What is the PRUP (Ukrainian Miners Union) trades unions view of the current situation in eastern Ukraine?

Sergey: Currently our union organisation doesn’t have a joint opinion. The Donetsk and Luhansk regions are under Russian control and propaganda and they consider that their rights have been suppressed. That is not our view.  Our opinion is we believe it is an open war on the side of Russia and that this war is supported by local oligarchs or rich people and friends of Yanukovich’s family

Mick Antoniw: One of the proposals from the Ukrainian government’s programme of reform is the decentralisation of power. What is the Unions view?

Sergey: That issue had been raised by us five years ago in Kyiv and put to government, that is why this is supported widely. We consider that this issue, decentralisation of power will strengthen local authorities.

Mick Antoniw: Has there been enough local level debate on this issue? Local discussions with trades unions etc.

Sergey:  That has happened especially in our regions. We share in and participate in discussions about decentralisation and have explained what it means. It is important that it this debate is shared widely.

Mick Antoniw: In some UK papers it is suggested there is a threat to the Russian language.

Sergey: It is real propaganda of Russian. There is no threat to the Russian language in Ukraine. All our documents, files, negotiations are conducted in the Russian language. We perform everything in the Russian language. There is no threat at all.

Mick Antoniw: There appears to be some disunity amongst unions in Ukraine. Will recent events lead to greater solidarity across Ukraine amongst trades unions?

Are there prospects of trades’ union candidates standing for the next parliamentary elections and are there prospects for a more united union voice in elections?

Sergey; First of all, we make all attempts to preserve our big society and our country as a great united society. As soon as the foreign countries, particularly Russia, maybe the US and maybe Europe interference into our affairs stops everything will be OK. Our country cannot be divided, cannot be separated that is why we make all efforts to keep our country united. That is why our trades unions make all attempts to keep our country united, West, East and Central Ukraine, for a joined united society. There is no other way for Ukraine other than to be united.

Based on last trades unions conference held in Kyiv a month ago, it was shown that trades unions in all industrial areas from the east, which are strong organisations, and west which are not so strong, and central trades unions have the same
desire to be united. Our trades unions are united in this, we have spoken in our conferences in different languages, Russian and Ukrainian, but all trades union participants express the same desire to be united and to support our country. Trades unions will provide their delegates and candidates to local, area and regional and central bodies during elections. We will participate and provide our candidates to all levels of authority. We will do it.  Regarding a united political voice.

Much will depend upon there being no interference from outside. That’s why we intend to have a strong political union and organisation which will be ready to unite all forces. Unfortunately this is not yet strong enough in Ukraine. Trades
unions are currently not yet ready to accept this political way, to unite all areas properly because they are still divided into different subsidiary unions. But we are ready for the struggle.

Mick Antonin: What is the position of the mining industry in Ukraine with regard to pay and conditions? What are the most important issues affecting the mining industry that government needs to address?

Sergey: The main demands and requirements of the unions are still the same. We will participate in all areas and be represented at local and national level. that’s why we are not going to discuss only one issue such as wages , we are ready to participate in wider discussions and complex issues affecting the totality of living standards , and we will promote different programmes associated with redundancy, wages, welfare, closure of mines, We are ready to participate in discussions with government regarding these problems. For example, we have been working together with owners and the ministry of coal mining in Ukraine who adopted decision to make redundant a lot of work places and reduce the salary of miners and closure of some mines that is why PRUP started a struggle for our rights and we will participate in discussions with the ministry to stop the initiatives made by the ministry of coal mining.

Mick Antoniw: The separatists present a case that they are being attacked by fascist forces and fighting against fascism, yet some of them appear to be right wing fascist groups themselves. What is the politics of the separatist movement?

Sergey: We are speaking about nationalist guns from Russia?

Mick Antoniw: Yes and who the separatists are and what do they represent?

Sergey: This is a very important issue. We know that Russian propaganda says a lot about fascism in Ukraine. How can we call our soldiers and our young people who widely participate in this war fascists; they are from east, west and central Ukraine. This is only Russian propaganda. We haven’t seen fascists or these bad ideas in our part of Ukraine.

Many of the separatists come from Chechnya, Karabakh and other parts; it is not just Russia they come from. Also, some local  detachments of the Ukrainian army were released from the Eastern areas and replaced by other soldiers,  they tell  us that  a lot of guns and detachments from not just Russia, but Chechnya, Karabakh, and  different parts of the world, fighting for money , paid by someone. On our side we see no fascism at all. These people are as we say bandits.

Mick Antoniw: What impact has the rocket attack on the civilian aircraft had on people in Ukraine?

Sergey: Ukraine does not use these missiles in this area because we don’t have them there at all. These were missile launch systems provided by Russian and brought to the areas of Luhansk and Donetsk.

Mick Antoniw: What do people think about what has happened and those responsible. It seems likely was a separatist group that acquired these from Russia , has this affected the way people think?

Sergey: This is a very complicated issue. Firstly, Russia has its own TV channels in the Eastern Donbas and they continue to provide their own propaganda, and they, Russia says Ukraine was involved in that event. Then they say military aircraft were close by. They try to protect and provide obstacles, to save themselves. Russia provides their own propaganda for this purpose.

Chartist would like to thank the Ukraine Socialist Solidarity and Chris Ford for their continued collaboration.


  1. Ukrainian Nationalist miners leader who can’t see fascist forces? Nor any mention of the Zionist gangster Israeli-Ukrainian oligarch Kolomoisky who was installed after the coup as the mayor of his region, Dnipropetrovsk, and is funding some of these battalions?

    Sergey: This is a very important issue. We know that Russian propaganda says a lot about fascism in Ukraine. How can we call our soldiers and our young people who widely participate in this war fascists; they are from east, west and central Ukraine. This is only Russian propaganda. We haven’t seen fascists or these bad ideas in our part of Ukraine.

    Yet even the Tory Telegraph can?

    There are also other miners leaders who are well aware of the dangers of fascism such as Mikhail Krylov, Representative of the Independent Donetsk Miners’ Trade Union (who doesn’t appear in Ukrainian Nationalist garb):

    Supported by German Trade Unionists

    Given the recent banning of the KPU and the torture and murder of a local party secretary Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Kovshun the dangers of this reactionary Ukrainian Nationalism and its right-wing fascist trajectory is all too clear to anyone with eyes to see

    I take it that the 2000 civilians murdered, 4000 maimed and the 750000 refugees currently in Russia under the Kiev regime’s ‘ATO’ are the price worth paying for Sergey who makes no mention of this tragedy.

  2. All this defence of Kiev is in stark contrast to Frank Lee and Sheila Osmanovic who write excellently in the current issue of Chartist: Ukraine; Fascism’s toe-hold In Europe and Sheila on Crimea. It would seem to fly in the face of these very serious contributions to then endorse a pro-Maidan group which excuses the fascist outrage in the Trade Union house in Odessa and makes no apology for the appalling slaughter of civilians in Eastern Ukraine. There seems to be a great softness in fascism in this approach:
    Gerry Downing

  3. Chartist would like to underline the importance of open yet polite debate. Chartist has a few contributors, as Gerry rightly points out, who might challenge some this above from the Ukraine Socialist Solidarity, but we’ve always accepted the importance of providing for different views which is why we’ve allowed USS space for this interview. Just in case this get’s too hot!

  4. The animosity of many on the left towards Ukraine and their unawarenes of the major role playe by the RNE and Russian Nazi organisations is alarming and evident in this thread. They are creating a fictional reality in which the centrality of neo Nazism to Russia’s invasion is obscured and the more peripheral role of Ukraine’s right is exaggerated.

    Here is the RNE’s site

    There volunteers play a central role in the Russian terrorist army

    Gubarev is a neo Nazi coordinated by Russian Fascist Dugin

    If Putin succeeds Ukrainians of all political views will be ethnically cleansed. The leftist commentators here simplistically reducing the country to that minority of right wing paramilitaries are facilitating genocide. If Russia leaves Ukraine, the conflict will stop. The question for all you below (incidentally being manipulated by the FSB and apparently blithely unaware of the fact) is whether you want to facilitate the genocide of a sovereign multi ethnic nation..

  5. The person Mikhail Krylov is the head of the so-called Donetsk Independent Miners Union working in Donbas area. This has no relationship to the actual two mass miners unions affiliated to the Federation of Trade Unions of Ukraine or the Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Ukraine.
    This person together with a tiny group of miners separated from the Independent Trade Union of Miners of Ukraine in 1990s. The union is generally regarded as “yellow union”. Suddenly Krylov who is very supportive of the separatists and the Russian aggression in Ukraine – appeared at the Independent Trade Union Congress of the Russian Federation – where they adopted (with Krylov’s assistance) a pro-separatist resolution on Ukraine. Amongst the miners unions he is regarded as traitor by the miners in Donbas.

    Both the actual unions of miners are fighting for unity, integrity and non-aggression. Both have issued clear statements opposing the separatists and for all efforts towards a restoration of peace.
    The trade unionists in UK which are affiliated to the WFTU and the ITUC could do well to listen to their own sister unions in Ukraine, and not fictional unions and ultra-nationalist militias seeing to divide workers.

  6. Chronology of Ukraine’s descent.

    1. Yanukovich suspends the signing of the EU’s association agreement having taken one look at the IMF’s conditionalities. Privatisation, cuts in public spending, freeing inflows for hot money, labour market deregulation.
    2. Mass protests in Kiev which turn into insurrection as the formerly peaceful protests become hijacked by openly fascist militias and supporters of Svoboda, a neo-Nazi party which pretends it isn’t. Svoboda has international connexions with Front National in France and BNP in the UK as well as various other parties in Europe. Svobodanow holds six ministerial portfolios in the Kiev ‘government’.
    3. US funding – $5bn – of the subsequent coup through faux NGOs like the National Endowment for Democracy and American Enterprise Institute. Active also in this respect where senior US diplomats in Kiev – Victoria Nuland and US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt, who both went on to choose the interim government after Yanukovich was illegally deposed. Open rebellion in the eastern oblasts, particularly after the Odessa and Mariupol massacres. In the west of the Ukraine opposition parties only exist at the own risk, parliamentary deputies are beaten up their houses and offices burnt down. Communist Party eventually banned, but the Party of the Regions still has some representatives in the Ukrainian Parliament, at their own risk of course.
    4. Poroshenko, billionaire oligarch, elected on a small turnout. This election only included 85% of registered voters as many were in the eastern oblasts where the election was boycotted. Only 27% of registered voters in Ukraine actually voted for Poroshenko. After 25 May election Poroshenko received visits in consecutive weeks: First head of the CIA, John Brenner, and one week later US Vice President Joe Biden. The anti-terrorist offensive starts against the east almost immediately afterwards.
    5. The Ukrainian Army spearheaded by militarised neo-Nazi units – Right Sector (now on the government’s payroll as the National Guard), the Azov Brigade (a collection of global neo-nazi’s – a sort of right wing International Brigade) and Ihor Kolomoyskyi’s private army. Mr Kolomoyskyi is another oligarch and reputedly head of the Ukrainian mafia, he is also a Zionist and holds joint Israel-Ukraine citizenship, although this is illegal under Ukrainian law. He has offered $10,000 of own money for each separatist caught and separate rewards for their weaponry. Ukrainian army has been shelling, and bombing city after city in the eastern Ukraine and using the aforementioned neo-Nazi militias as ideological shock troops to engage in what can only be called ethnic cleansing. Needless to say using heavy weapons against civilians and ethnic cleansing are both against international law.

    This has resulted in hundreds of thousands of eastern refuges most of whom have fled to Russia and the remainder are displaced in the Ukraine.

  7. East Ukraine protesters (against Kiev) joined by miners on the barricades

    Coalmining is a major industry in the Donetsk region, which has close ties to Russia – Guardian 14 April 2014

Leave a comment...

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.