Thousands of coal miners from eastern Ukraine have taken to the streets in capital Kiev, protesting the closure of coal mines and demanding salary debts repaired. The protesters also wanted to talk to the PM, but Arseny Yatsenyuk ignored the call.
The rally began in front of the parliament building and the presidential administration Wednesday morning, with a group of miners managing to break inside the administration. But the talks with the representatives of the authorities brought no result and the protesters relocated to the government headquarters, blocking the traffic at central Kreschatik Street.
The miner’s unions said that 5,000 people took part in the protest, TASS reported.
The miners banged their hard hats on the pavement, chanting “Shame on you” and “Where’s our money?” They also demanded that Coal Industry Minister Vladimir Demchishina, who recently announced plans to close three unprofitable mines, be removed from his position.
“We come from a small mining town in Donbass [eastern Ukraine]. There’s no other work there, except for the mine. If it closes – our town will die out,” a wife of one of the miners complained.
The government headquarters was protected by several cordons of police, wearing riot gear and carrying shields. However, there were no incidents reported between the demonstrators and security forces.
The miners wanted to discuss the situation directly with Yatsenyuk, but neither the PM nor any of his ministers went out to talk to the people. After several hours the majority of the people dispersed, but 150 miners remaining near the government HQ declared an “infinite protest,” TASS reported.
They said that they won’t leave until the authorities comply with their demands and retract of the decision to close the mines.
Meanwhile, the administration of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said it expects “effective actions” from the government in addressing the problems, which forced the miners out into the streets. “The basic concept of the coal industry reform, which is now under consideration, focuses on ensuring the operations of high-potential mines instead of providing funds for the repayment of wage debts. The issue of closure or conservation of unprofitable mines will be considered, but with the understanding of the necessity of providing social safety nets,” Vitaly Kovalchuk, first deputy head of the presidential administration, is cited by Interfax-Ukraine.
The miners held all-Ukrainian Congress in Kiev on Tuesday, with 800 delegates coming up with a set of measures required from the government to save the country’s coal mining industry. They included Demchishin’s removal, changes to the country’s budget and a special meeting of Ukraine National Security Council.
The miners promised to organize nation-wide strikes if their demands are ignored by the Ukrainian authorities.
Earlier, the coal industry minister said that three unattractive mines in eastern Ukraine will be closed in order to relocate the resources on development of more lucrative projects.
According to Demchishin, the Kiev authorities currently control 35 out of 95 coal mines in Ukraine. The majority of the mines in Ukraine are located in the areas held by the militias of the self-declared People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk.
A violent conflict began in Ukraine last April, with Kiev sending its military to the country’s eastern region after they refused to recognize the new coup imposed authorities in the capital. The UN human rights office said that at least 6,116 people have been killed and 15,474 wounded since during a year of fighting.
From a report in TASS: “The Opposition Bloc faction left the parliament’s plenary session earlier on April 23 to express solidarity with the protetsing miners. The faction’s leader, Yuri Boiko, said the Opposition Bloc members would donate their daily wages to miners.”
Ukraine’s anti-corruption activists block Kiev ring road, TASS, April 23, 2015
* * *
Right Sector radicals attack striking coal miners in Kyiv
About a dozen extremists from the Right Sector and Automaidan radical groups attacked a group of striking miners after a protest rally in downtown Kiev on Friday. The leader of Ukraine’s independent miners’ union, Mikhailo Volynets, said the incident happened outside the Kiev-Pechora Monastery as the miners were going home after holding a protest in the city center demanding the payment of their long overdue wages. No one was hurt.
“Some of the attackers, 15 to 20 in all, were dressed as civilians, others wore military fatigues. They were tall, broad-shouldered, most of them from the Caucasus… They said they were members of the Right Sector and Automaidan,” Volynets told RIA Novosti news agency.
He added that the attackers threatened to assault the miners again.
Thousands of coal miners from eastern Ukraine took to the streets in Kiev earlier this week protesting the closure of coal mines, demanding their back pay and the removal of Coal Industry Minister Vladimir Demchishin.
The rally began outside the parliament building and the presidential administration Wednesday morning, with a group of miners managing to break inside the administration headquarters. But the talks with the representatives of the authorities brought no result and the protesters relocated to the government headquarters, blocking the traffic on the city’s central Kreschatik Street.
In November 2014, Russia’s Supreme Court declared Ukrainian People’s Self-Defense (UNA-UNSO) and the Right Sector as extremist and banned their activity in the country. Other Ukrainian organizations which have been added to the Russian blacklist include the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) and Stepan Bandera All-Ukrainian Organization “Tryzub”.
EDITOR’S NOTE: We remind our readers that publication of articles on our site does not mean that we agree with what is written. Our policy is to publish anything which we consider of interest, so as to assist our readers in forming their opinions. Sometimes we even publish articles with which we totally disagree, since we believe it is important for our readers to be informed on as wide a spectrum of views as possible.