Around 3,000 Donbas miners – the driving force of the coal-rich region – marched through the streets of Donetsk on Wednesday, protesting against Kiev's ongoing military operation in eastern Ukraine.
The demonstrators, who then gathered at a central square for a rally, chanted “Fascism won’t pass!” and “Donbas will not forgive!”
While some of the miners interviewed by RIA Novosti support the
self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, others simply reject
what they refer to as the “fascist” policies of Kiev
“What is now happening in Donetsk, all this shooting, this does worry our wives, our children. People want to leave peacefully, to work peacefully, in a peaceful and prosperous country,” a miner named Viktor said.
The rally marked the end of the Donbas miners’ “neutrality” – until this week, they chose to not participate in anti-government actions. Just one day earlier, on Tuesday, workers at several mines in Donetsk went on strike.
“The miners of Donbas announce an indefinite strike and demand an end to the military operation and the withdrawal of Ukrainian troops from the territory of Donetsk region,” deputy head of the coal mining industry of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR), Konstantin Kuzmin, said on Tuesday.
He added that miners from the Skochinskogo, Abakumova, Chelyuskintsev, and Trudovskaya mines joined the strike.
Previously, the workers were reportedly warned against walking
out in protest against the coup-imposed Kiev government.
But Monday saw Kiev’s brutal attack on the international airport in an attempt to win it back from self-defense forces. Fighter jets and battle helicopters were unleashed and fighting eventually relocated to downtown Donetsk. More than 50 civilians and as many self-defense troops have been killed in the subsequent clashes.
The southeastern region of Donbas is the industrial center of the country. Coal in Ukraine is one of the nation's biggest industries, while the region has been a coal mining area since the late 19th century. The miners are a powerful driving force in the region.
The clashes in Donetsk began just a few hours after the early results of the presidential election were announced.
The president-elect, billionaire Petro Poroshenko, is in favor of continuing the military operation in the southeast of the country, despite earlier calls from the nation's parliament to withdraw troops.
“I don’t have the information, denoting that [the operation] must now be stopped,” Poroshenko said during a news conference on election night. "I support its continuation, but demand a change in its format – it must be shorter and it must be more effective, military units must be better equipped.”