Fri Feb 03, 2023
February 03, 2023

Ukraine: Attempts to loot state-owned coal companies

The Ukrainian working class on the front line, arms in hand, heroically resists the Kremlin invasion.

By Vasil Volinsk, Ukrainian miner

While this working class faces the threat from Russia head-on, it faces assaults from behind backed by government officials in Kyiv. We reproduce here the vivid account of one of the protagonists of the recent strike at the Novovolynska State Mining Company No. 9 in Western Ukraine.

On 29 July 2022, Ukrainian Energy Minister Galushchenko issued a decree appointing Mr Gerashchenko as acting director of the Novovolynska Mine without giving any explanations or reasons. Sinyuk, head of the ministerial department, and Shikera, general director of the state coal company Volynuglya, came to announce the newly appointed acting director.

The miners rejected this delegation and escorted the trio back to where they came from. This failed appointment was preceded by an event that took place a month before these events. Two arrogant men arrived at the company and pushed the director of mine N°9, Yurkiv, to send coal to the company of their choice. Otherwise, they threatened, Yurkiv would be fired. Of course, there was a refusal and the aftermath was as expected.

Everyone thought that it was just a passing episode, and it was all over… But no. The company was working as usual when a dozen and a half young troublemakers burst into the company escorting a person who self-identified as Mr. Troskó, “director of the Mine N°9 Novolynska.” Mr. Troskó had already hired a lawyer, infamous for illegal land grabbing and liaisons in the tabloids. And, most importantly, Mr. Troskó had already managed to register the company in his name!

Any questions from the employees were answered with threats of dismissal. The employees immediately called the head of the ministerial department, Sinyuk, to explain the situation. His answer was, “I don’t know anything and nobody informed me.”

For a whole month, the young henchmen who entered the mining company with Mr. Troskó remained present in the company around the clock, a threatening presence for the workers. No one was allowed to see documents confirming the legality of their stay on the company’s territory. The forces of law and order excluded themselves from the very beginning and withdrew. And then they started accusing the workers of inciting the conflict.

Mr. Lobach, head of the City Council, and Movenko, Volyn regional military deputy chief (the head chief refused to come), came to the company to get acquainted with the situation and, in fact, to fulfill formalities. The Internal Security Service was sent to the company, alleging disobedience. There were three power cut-off notices, although, curiously, the bills were paid on time. The mine was summonsed fifty times by the military command. The police are investigating three complaints against the workers, although the workers were the ones who earlier requested the police presence.

The workers filed complaints against the henchman and against an unknown man, who filmed with a secret online camera (a mobile modem was found in his pocket when he was searched). But, for some strange reason, nobody has done anything about these events. However, the Ministry organized an inspection with one goal: to find compromising material or information that would discredit the former director Yurkiv.

When the funds for the payment of wages arrived, Mr. Troskó, on his own initiative, having previously agreed with the local head of the treasury, revoked the payment orders. This led to a strike and, after a month of work stoppage, the mine workers simply ignored Troskó as director and refused to work with him. Only then did Energy Minister Galushchenko cancel his decree and reappointed former director Yurkiv. Let’s hope this won’t change.

Now, a little question: why and for what purpose? The government allocated 2.5 billion Grivnas (US$ 50 million) for the purchase of domestic coal. In order to have the opportunity to pocket the allocated funds, the so-called controllers put their men in the circuit. At the moment, coal shipped for state needs costs 4,050 Grivnas per ton, without VAT. So it gets more interesting. They forced this coal to be sent for “enrichment” (grinding and separation from other minerals) at the company’s expense, including payment for delivery, etc.

And this represents a loss of about one-third. After the coal enrichment process, it is sent to the thermal power plant, where it is burned.

A person with little knowledge of the subject will not understand why this is bad for the coal miners. The problem lies in the contracts that the ministry forces mine managers to sign, which significantly underestimate the cost of coal production. The mine has to pay for everything, including delivery, enrichment, and other processes.

The main difficulty is that the mine will receive the money only 45 days after delivering the coal. That is, only after the state company accepts the coal and whether it has the money. As a rule, the money is never there or there is not enough for everyone, and also the mine has to pay for the electricity in advance because of the reform introduced by the former minister Nasalik!

In short, the Cabinet of Ministers and the Ministry of Energy deliberately and systematically, for their own and third parties’ benefit, are destroying the Ukrainian coal industry. That is why they put their men into the posts of directors. But the private-owned companies that buy the coal sell them at a two-fold price. Everyone but the miners make money on coal!

The most important thing is that at this time, when there is a war in Ukraine, when hundreds of thousands are dying at the front, when the aggressor is shelling the whole of Ukraine and civilians are dying, when the enemy is destroying the whole infrastructure and volunteers are collecting pennies and carrying everything they need to the front, some people are engaged in robbing state-owned enterprises!

The Ministry does not react, and the Cabinet of Ministers and the President’s Office just “write letters.” All law enforcement agencies not only do not intervene but also enthusiastically accompany the robbers. And the district and regional military administrations see nothing abnormal in this! As they say around here, “for some it is war and, for others, it’s their mother.”

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