Social Protest and Repression in Donbass

Gabriel Levy from People and Nature with some reports from Donbass.

News about social protests is coming out of Donbass, the region controlled by separatist forces in eastern Ukraine. The protesters have faced violent repression and threats from the separatist governments whose policies they are challenging.

On 4 October, local people in Sverdlovsk (in Luhansk region, in separatist-controlled territory) protested at the headquarters of the security service of Ukraine (SBU) about the shortage of wage payments and of food, the collapse of the banking system, and against plunder and robberies by the paramilitaries. That night, protesters’ houses were attacked with hand grenades. On 5 October, the protesters went out again, demanding the payment of wages and the restoration of the city infrastructure. Armed men shot at the demonstrators. Three people went to hospital with gunshot wounds.

These events were reported on, a site set up in May by journalists from Luhansk, who left the region after some of their colleagues were kidnapped and tortured. The site reports news received from the occupied area, as “an answer to the pro-Russian extremists’ attempts to silence independent media and journalists”. (Details here in Russian.)

Meanwhile, the government of the “Donetsk People’s Republic” has adopted a new taxation system, which – just as in Russia itself – is anti-social. For example, the income tax and the tax on enterprises in the republic will not be progressive: the tax rate will be fixed (regardless of the level of income) at 13%, and the enterprise tax fixed at 20%, the semi-official Russian news agency Itar-Tass reported. The bourgeoisie has been exempted from the payment of tax debts for recent months. In the “Luhansk People’s Republic”, the adoption of the same system is scheduled for 15 October.

On 22 September, the people of Antratsit (Luhansk region) went out to the city central square, to protest in front of the City Executive Committee building, according to a report in Novyi Region newspaper. This “revolt for cash” demanded wages, pensions and welfare benefits, which were promised. but which people did not receive for a couple of months.

The “revolt for cash” at Antratsit, Luhansk region, 22 September. Photo from Novyi Region newspaper, Kyiv

The local separatist military commanders reacted with direct threats against the protesters. saying: “If you demonstrate here again, we will shoot you all. Forget what a miner’s wage is, and what a pension is, not to mention welfare benefits”. Nevertheless, some aid – namely, a can of meat and a package of cereal for each person – was immediately distributed.

Before the demonstration, the Komsomolskaya mine at Antratsit was shut down. The government of the self-proclaimed “Lugansk People’s Republi”c announced that the miners will from now on receive a wage of 1200 hryna (around $100) – far less than they had earned previously. In protest, the miners all absented themselves from work the next day.

On 27 September, around 200 citizens went out to protest in Rovenky (Luhansk region). The majority of the protesters were the retired people, but there were also young people in the crowd, the news site reported. There was indignation that the “Lugansk People’s Republic” government does not keep its promises to pay pensions and wages.

The demonstrators accused the government of plundering humanitarian aid, so it does not reach the people, including old people living on their own who are starving and have no-one to help them. There is neither running water nor heating in the town.

The protesters, who do not receive the payments they are entitled to from the new local authorities, collected signatures on a petition to the Ukrainian government in Kyiv, demanding that it pays them.

These reports were published last week on the Russian web site of the anarchist International Workers Association, and in English on the Ukraine Activist Perspective facebook page. My thanks to both. The links in the story are to the local newspapers and web sites that first reported the information. GL, 19 October 2014.

■ See also: “War as a means of social control” and “Ukraine: truce the least bad option”

■ Earlier reports from eastern Ukraine on People & Nature:

‘A gangster-police putsch, presented in “people’s” wrapping’ (20 July 2014)

Eastern Ukraine: beyond the fragments (22 May 2014)

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