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Ukraine – international solidarity puts the break on interrogations

23 June, 2015Interrogations by Ukrainian security services of union leaders and activists have been stopped following international union pressure, said IndustriALL Global Union affiliate, the Independent Trade Union of Miners of Ukraine (NPGU) today. 

Within the last couple of weeks several union leaders and activists from NPGU and the Coal Mining Workers’ Union of Ukraine have been interrogated by security services after thousands of miners flocked to the capital, Kiev, from all over the Ukraine at the end of April to protest against unpaid wages and mine closures.

The authorities suspected funding for the miners’ protests came not through the unions but by third parties with the intent of taking over state power. They launched a criminal case into the matter and union leaders and activists have been interrogated as witnesses.

Mikhailo Volynets, head of the NPGU, was interrogated for several hours on 18 June about his union activity. He strongly denies the accusations.

The April protests followed the Third Congress of Miners that was held by both unions in Kiev on 21 April 2015. Nearly 800 delegates gathered to discuss the difficult situation in the Ukrainian coal mining industry.

Mining unions are demanding that the government eliminates wage arrears, restores social guarantees for workers, sets a fair price for Ukrainian coal, stops coal imports, ends mine closures, and provides financial support to the mining industry in general.

Volynets has warned that the miners would launch an open-ended nation-wide strike if the authorities ignore their demands.

The interrogations are linked to the April protests and coincided with another turn of mass union protest actions in Kiev in May and June. The unions once again demanded that the government stop their anti-social policy and take action to resolve social and economic problems.

Jyrki Raina, General Secretary of IndustriALL Global Union, said:

Instead of listening to the unions and taking adequate measures to prevent the coal mining sector from decline, the government has been on a witch-hunt, making union leaders and miners hostages of bad state policy. The international union movement is closely watching the developments in the Ukraine, and condemns all violations of human and trade union rights.”