In Digest, Ukraine

The following article appeared in the German news publication Junge Welt about the participation of mineworkers in the armies of the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics. 

By Susann Witt-Stahl, in Junge Welt, Nov 18, 2014. Translated from the German for Solidarity Against the Anti-Fascist Resistance in Ukraine (UK) by Willy H.

In Donbass, fighting miner’s divisions are a tradition. The 383 Infantry Division, set up in 1941, which consisted of volunteer miners and which was involved in the defense of Donetsk, the battles of Crimea and later in the battle of Berlin, enjoyed a high reputation. The leadership of the Red Army lauded them for their selfless courage and persistence. Today the miners, on the side of the insurgents in Donetsk and Lugansk, try to tie in with these traditions.

At the end of May approximately 1000 members of the miners trade union marched through Donetsk, demanding the withdrawal of the troops of the Kiev Junta and the independence of Donbass. Many of them joined the soldiers of Donetsk and Lugansk in the summer and are now part of almost all military units.

“I learned not to be afraid” said machine gunner Vladimir (45) from Donetsk, who slaved away for 25 years below the ground and is now member of the Battalion Oplot (stronghold). “Working in the mines is extremely dangerous. Detonations occur frequently” he says when he is asked how it feels to risk one’s life at the front. Defending the region against aggressors of the West is his stated reason for joining the army. “This is a war for nationalism and fascism, initiated by very rich people.”

Some units consist almost entirely of miners, for instance the Kalmius Battalion, named after river, which conducts special missions, for example reconnaissance in enemy territory, and maintains its own artillery. Currently it operates on the highly contested airport of Donetsk against the Right Sector and foreign mercenaries and also participated in the battles at the heights near Snizhne at the Russian border where the Ukrainian army destroyed the Saur-Mogila monument which was built in remembrance of the resistance against fascism.

The fury about the crimes of Ukrainian fascist prompted many miners to cast aside hammer and pickaxe and pick up the gun. “To them there is no difference between civilians and soldiers, says Vlad, and gives an account of a dead family he found in a car, allegedly killed by a marauding Ukrainian volunteer corps. 29 year old Oleg of Shakthyorsk states the May 2nd massacre at the trade union building in Odessa as his reason to join the civil war. Like many of his comrades he wants to protect his home from economic starvation. “More and more mines get closed, many of us were laid off.”

The Ukrainian military campaign in Donbass hits the miners especially hard. Three mines were destroyed by missiles, others had to be temporarily shut down. During the continual bombardment, electricity is at constant risk to collapse, effectively burying the working people alive, explains Stanislav Retinskiy.

The people’s republic enacted laws guaranteeing the miners employment after the victorious end of the war. This, however, is a long way away. The new rulers in Kiev criminalize the rebellious miners and brand them terrorists.

“We are neither separatists nor terrorists. We are people of the working class”, miners explain on June 18th at the Lenin monument in Donetsk. “We want peace in our country and we want to be heard. Kiev sends mercenaries, murderers, tanks and aircrafts against us. We demand an immediate armistice!” As the armistice, as expected, failed to form they exclaimed: “It’s the right of the miners to take their fate into their own hands”. Shortly after the “Schakhtyorskaya Division”, a more than 1000 man strong miner’s division, was formed.


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