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Welsh miners send aid to their Ukrainian counterparts

24 Feb 2024 5 minute read
Members of the independent miners’ union of Ukraine handing over one of the vehicles donated to the local battalion in Kharkhiv

Luke James

When Welsh miners went on strike in 1984, their counterparts in the coalfields of Ukraine raised thousands of pounds to support them through solidarity rallies or even by working extra shifts.

Fifty thousand Roubles, equivalent to £46,000 at the time, had been collected to support the National Union of Mineworkers in the first six months of the year-long dispute, according to a newspaper report from the time.

Now, as the 40th anniversary of the strike approaches, Welsh miners are repaying the act of solidarity by supporting Ukrainian miners in their struggle to repel the Russian invasion launched exactly two years ago today.

The NUM has made a £10,000 contribution towards a delivery of three vehicles packed with medical equipment, cooking supplies and drones.

Wayne Thomas, who went on strike in 1984 and is now vice-president of the NUM in Wales, was part of a delegation which took the donations from Wales to Ukraine.

‘Big effort’

“The links between the NUM and miners in Ukraine go back many years,” said Thomas.

“It’s the 40th anniversary of the miners’ strike and we thought because they assisted us – I was a coal miner on strike myself – it was the least we could do to make a big effort this time.

“That results in the delivery of three vehicles full of life-saving equipment which has been very gratefully received by our colleagues in Ukraine.”

Thomas spoke to Nation.Cymru from the headquarters of the Independent Trade Union of Miners of Ukraine in Kyiv, where he met with miners who had raised money to support the strike in 1984-85.

As it was not possible to convert Soviet Roubles into Pounds, the money raised in Ukraine could not be sent directly to the NUM’s strike fund.

A ship containing food and clothing meant for miners and their families was sent to Barry but was also turned back by customs, according to Seumas Milne’s book, The Enemy Within.

Instead, the book says the money was used for morale-boosting benefits such as holidays for miners’ families in the Soviet Union and a tour for a 40-strong youth choir from south Wales.

Wayne thomas of the NUM, Mick Antinow and Carwyn Donovan of Bectu handing over another vehicle to Serhiy Yunak, head of the miners’ union in Pavlograd

The donations sent by Welsh miners have already been delivered to the frontline in the coalfields of eastern Ukraine, which are also linked to Wales through the mining and steel town of Donetsk which was founded by Welshman John Hughes and initially called Hughesovska.

Armed forces

Around a third of mineworkers are now serving in the armed forces, according to the Ukrainian miners’ union.

“Our mine has always been a difficult one, it’s always had problems and since the invasion the problems have only become greater,” Dmytro Yarotskyi, a miner and union member at the Chervonogradska in the west of Ukraine, told a European trade union solidarity event last year.

“The job used to be done by seven people and now it’s done by four or even three people. Despite the circumstances, miners do not despair. We are rolling up our sleeves, we continue to work to keep the energy front strong and we always find the time when we’re not working to help our guys on the front line.”

Two of the vehicles containing supplies have already been delivered to Kharkiv in the north east and one was taken to Pavlograd in the south east.

Medical equipment

As well as the material funded by the NUM and other trade unions, the delivery includes expired specialist medical equipment from the National Health Service needed to treat shrapnel and bullet wounds.

Warm weather clothing and equipment needed for cooking in trenches are among the other items delivered in one of half a dozen solidarity conveys organised since the invasion.

But Mick Antinow, the Welsh Government minister of Ukrainian heritage who helped organise the delegation, said Ukraine’s main challenge was now a shortage of ammunition.

“People are saying that they’re very concerned about the supply of ammunition,” said Antinow.

“They’ve got to get the flow of ammunition from America, from Europe to the Ukrainian soldiers because they’re fighting with one arm behind their backs.”

His comments come amid political wrangling over a 60 billion dollar package of support from the United States, which has been blocked until now by the Republican party.

The White House this week said the delay allowed Russia to seize the city of Avdiivka, near Donetsk.

“Ukrainian soldiers had to ration ammunition due to dwindling supplies as a result of congressional inaction, resulting in Russia’s first notable gains in months,” said a readout of a call between US President Biden with his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Antinow said the UK also has not yet delivered half of what it has promised the Ukrainian government.

“You’ve got to fulfil the promises in terms of the numbers of artillery shells, the sort of equipment that’s needed,” he added. “Otherwise Ukraine is continuously on the defensive rather than being able to go on the attack.

“The delays in America are of considerable concern but either way Europe has to step in. There are other wars going on in the world – Israel, Gaza and Yemen are of course in focus.

“But what we’re hoping to do is remind people that what is going on in Ukraine is the frontline of democracy. That’s why what happens in Ukraine is so important to people in Wales.”

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Y Cymro
Y Cymro
1 month ago

I can understand the solidarity between Welsh and Ukrainian miners. Both understand each other, who know adversity in an unforgiving industry where a larger neighbour exploited its coal resource for its own financial & political ends.

Last edited 1 month ago by Y Cymro
1 month ago
Reply to  Y Cymro

Bit of a difference, the majority of the people of Wales aren’t fascist!

1 month ago
Reply to  Riki

Are you implying that then that the majority of the Ukrainian people are fascists? How is that any less racist than if one were to imply that the “majority of Palestinians are terrorists”?

The biggest fascist here is Putin!!

Leigh Richards
Leigh Richards
1 month ago
Reply to  Rob

Indeed – and it’s why under the tyrannical Putin Regime Russia has actively cultivated links with the European far right

1 month ago

I will have nothing to do with Ukraine thank you. There is No good guy in this war! Let’s just ignore the 20+ thousand slaughtered by Kiev between 2013-2021, shall we?!

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