Ukrainian steel mills are immensely important for the country’s infrastructure. Ukrainian steel mills provide jobs and profits on the domestic level and play a key role in Ukraine’s international relations. Two of Ukraine’s largest steel mill complexes generate up to 20% of export earnings and employ more than 40,000 people.
Ukrainian steel mills have been the focus of much controversy since they were established in Donetsk, formerly occupied by pro-Russian militants and then retaken by government forces in 2014. According to government officials, this has significantly reduced Ukraine’s steel exports to Russia.
On December 25, 2017, the Ukrainian military reported that Russian-backed separatist forces had taken almost 2,500 prisoners, including about 400 teenagers from eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
According to Artem Shevchenko, Ukraine’s representative at the Trilateral Contact Group for the settlement of the Donbas conflict reported that “the fate of 2,500 Ukrainian prisoners from these territories is unknown. According to preliminary data, they were taken to Russia. During a major offensive by Russian-backed separatist forces, the prisoners were taken to Ukraine’s Luhansk Oblast region.
The question is whether the detainees from one of Ukraine’s largest steel mills will be released soon. In 2012, the Luhansk steel plant and other assets were transferred to Ukraine from Russia’s gas monopoly. The previous year, Russia had seized the Dniprosteel steel complex in eastern Ukraine and a number of its facilities for nonpayment of taxes.
On January 19, 2018, the Interfax news agency reported that the Ukrainian oligarch Ihor Kolomoyskyi had purchased 100% of the shares of the steel mill in Luhansk. It is now known that Kolomoyskyi intends to rebuild the steel complex by 2020.
The steel mill in Luhansk was destroyed after 2014, but a rescue operation was initiated in 2015 to clean up and prepare the site so it would be able to operate again.
According to Ukrainian officials, the reconstruction of the Luhansk steel mill will create up to 10,000 jobs.