Media have reported about illegal coal trade in the Anti-Terrorist Operation zone, benefiting militant leaders in Donbas, as well as ex-president Viktor Yanukovych's entourage, according to Ukrainian weekly Novoye Vremia.
Director of the Eastern Human Rights Group, Luhansk-born Pavlo Lysiansky has analyzed the issue of illegal coal shipments from the so-called "republics" for several months, and concluded that it is in fact a huge market.
According to the report, monthly turnover from illegal coal trade amounts to UAH 400 million. Coal is sold from mines located in the territory of the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics, and is purchased by legal customers from Ukraine.
"The supply chain involves different players and interests – starting from the "republics'" leaders to representatives of Yanukovych and Co.," the report reads.
"It turns out that Ukraine sponsors terrorists that are fighting against it," Lysiansky argues.
Vitaliy Kropachev, ex-deputy of Donetsk Regional Council, who has also closely monitored the illegal coal trade business in the occupied territories, says the number of small illegal mines has increased from a few hundred to about 1,500.
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Lysiansky has calculated that Ihor Plotnytsky [LPR leader] must get about UAH 500 from each tonne of coal sold. Taking into account that the LPR produced 150,000 tonnes of coal in February, the LPR leader's income could reach UAH 75 million monthly.
In the "DPR," the so-called coal ministry deals with all issues related to coal and its trade. Oleksandr Zakharchenko, the DPR leader, reportedly owns stakes in every coal mines controlled by the "ministry."