Miners in the armies of the people’s republics of Donetsk and Lugansk

AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka

We publish here the translation of a very interesting article and interview by Susann Witt-Stahl which appeared in Junge Welt about the participation of mine-workers in the armies of the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics. 

Miners in the armies of the people’s republics of Donetsk and Lugansk: Why “Schakhtyorskaya Division” fight against the Kiev Junta.

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.

June 18 miners demonstration

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 independece 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 ones 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”

Saur Mogila hill retaken by rebels

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, the others had to be temporarily shut down. During the continual bombardment the 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.

“Not accepting gap between poor and rich”

Miners in Donbass fight for “good neighbourliness” to Russia and against the rule of the oligarchy. A talk with Pavel Shakun

Pavel Saskun / PIC Susann Stahl

Why did you form a miner’s division?

My father was in the Red Army. My uncle fought in the iinfantry miner’s division (established in 1941) and died September 8th 1943, the day Stalino, as Donetsk was called at the time, was liberated of fascism. This division had the reputation of being extremely tenacious. The enemy had one rule: Never try to take a miner captive. They will resist until the end.

..meaning when they were injured they were killed?


How did you organize the formation of the “Schakhstorskaya Division” and who instructed the fighters?

After the peace demonstration of June 18th the first 200 miners joined. They were trained by former officers of the Red Army who today are citizens of Donetsk, Schakhtyorsk and other neighbouring cities.

What pushed the miners to volunteer?

They are concerned about a good neighbourly relations with Russia, about the economic situation and about the resistance against fascism and the rule of the oligarchy. The people don’t accept the gap between poor and rich and want to build a socialist society. This applies not only to “Schakhstyorskaya Division” but to the whole army of Novorossia.

Where do the weapons and equipment come from?

When the Ukrainian army had to leave the region, some soldiers changed sides, others left their military depots without a fight. Additionally our militias were able to capture many weapons during the battles.

How is the division financed?

Donations by citizens of Donetsk.

Do the soldiers get paid?

No. We feed them. Sometimes they get cigarettes and other things from local companies.

Where does the division fight?

At the region south and west of Donetsk and at the airport.

How old are the fighters?

Recently an grandmother came with her 17 year old grandson who wanted to enlist but we didn’t let him fight at the front. The men there are between 40 and 60, most of them experienced former soldiers of the Red Army.

Are there international fighters in your division?

Yes. A few days ago I noticed that the driver of my car was a Pashtun from Afghanistan..

Are there Russians with you..?

We are all Russians (laughing). Yes, for instance recently men from Petersburg called me, who wanted to join my division.

How many fighters were killed so far?

I can’t tell you a number, it’s secret.

Which experiences did you make in the battle with the fascist battalions and the foreign soldiers and what are the differences between them and the regular Ukrainian army.

Many foreign soldiers are fighting on the Ukrainian side. Our military experts say that the Poles are the best. In the regular army there are more young men. The members of the volunteer battalions may be more experienced, but in the end there is no big difference. When I visited a friend of mine, who’s in our army and who’s killed several enemies so far, in the hospital he told me: “I want more blood; I need the smell of blood” It makes no matter if you are from “Azov”, if you are a mercenary or a soldier, if you are for the Ukraine or for Donetsk PR. He who smells blood wants it again and again. It changes the human consciousness. My friend is a scientist, but since he saw blood, he wants to kill again.

You hear again and again that the militias of the Donetsk PR don’t take the Fascists captive but simply execute them..

Azov or Ukrainian army – we take all hostile fighters that we can get captive and put them into prisoner exchange, even one of the men who burned people at the massacre in Odessa. These people are incited by propaganda. We give them the opportunity to understand that this is not their war. Many mothers of the soldiers demonstrate as well. Maybe one day it will open the eyes of the Ukrainians.

Original articles:  https://www.jungewelt.de/schwerpunkt/kumpel-im-krieg https://www.jungewelt.de/schwerpunkt/%C2%BBkluft-zwischen-arm-und-reich-nicht-hinnehmen%C2%AB translated for SARU by Willy H.

See also:
Miners march in Donetsk against “anti terrorist operation”

Donetsk: miners give Kiev 48h ultimatum “stop war or we will take up arms”

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One Response to Miners in the armies of the people’s republics of Donetsk and Lugansk

  1. Pingback: Perspectives for the People’s Republics: The external and domestic struggle of the left and progressive forces | Solidarity with the Antifascist Resistance in Ukraine

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