war crimes in Ukraine

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Were miners left to die after the explosion at the “Zakhidna” Mine?

Illicit mines are common in the Donbas area and bring in huge profits for the mafia-like gangs running them. In the latest accident which claimed the lives of five men hard-hitting questions need to be asked about the role of the local authorities

A criminal investigation has been launched by the prosecutor’s office into the explosion on 23 November in the main mine shaft of the former mine “Zakhidna 12” in the Luhansk region. The Press Secretary of the Regional Prosecutor’s Office told the information agency UNIAN that the investigation was over suspected breach of safety regulations.

Other accusations have already been heard.

The mine was closed two years ago however it was then restarted again to create an illegal coal enterprise. Human rights defender Mykola Kozyrev stresses that the local authorities must have known since electricity was brought in and compressors were working.

Such illicit mines are common in the Donbas region and they bring in millions for those running them. 

“This powerful organized criminal gain has existed for at least a decade and it controls a significant sector not only of the economy, but of the region’s politics. Therefore when such accidents occur and people die, there are usually no culprits. It’s all simple, with the police and prosecutor’s office in on it.

In order to liquidate the consequences of the explosion on 23 November, headquarters were set up under the Vakhrusheve Town Executive Committee and headed by the Deputy Mayor Serhiy Moiseyenko. Specialists from the local department of the State Committee on Industrial Safety were not brought in. The explosion took place at 8.09.  Four emergency teams were immediately sent to the scene and work on liquidating the accident continued until 15.55 after which headquarters took the decision to fill in the mine shafts. A record of this was added to the log book at 17.50.

Specialists cannot believe the haste of this decision since one always figths to the end to save the lives of men trapped underground, and there were five men still there. The youngest of the men who may have been buried alive in this way was born in 1987, the oldest in 1975.

Mr Moiseyenko told an UNIAN journalist that the decision to fill in the mine shafts had been taken collectively, not by him alone, and that this was in connection with the risk that the fire could spread and cause more explosions. He also asserted that with such a concentration of gas as during the explosion, nobody could have survived.

Mykola Kozyrev stresses that if attempts were not made to the last to save the five miners, this is in itself a crime, regardless of how the accident occurred. He says that as a former miner he can state with certainty that there are many ways of localizing a fire if there is proper ventilation, and that Moiseyenko’s words are unprofessional lies.  He believes that this latest accident demonstrates that the coal mafia in the Luhansk region is not just under the protection of the local authorities, but that they have merged into one.


From reports by Mykola Kozyrev at and

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