SNIZHNE, Ukraine /// The darkness bred fear. Tolek Golovko tried to calm down as a wagon carried him 800 meters down into the mine. The boy was afraid the wooden pillars would fail and the ceiling would come crashing down on him and the rest of the group. That happens on a regular basis here in Eastern Ukraine. Most recently in March last year, 33 people were killed when a mine collapsed outside of Donetsk. That one was large and state-owned, so the news went global. But when illegal mines like the one in Snizhne collapse, it is not always reported. Instead, families are compensated, mines are closed—and they become another secret mass grave deep in the woods. Read the whole story here.

From me and writer Per Christian Selmer-Anderssen’s story on how the illegal coal mines in Eastern-Ukraine is used to keep fueling the war. Published in Slate, Roads and Kingdom and DN Lørdag.

Soon Mikhail Ivanov sets of to his shift. He has six hours under the ground in front of him, without the possibility of either lunch or smoke break.

Soon Mikhail Ivanov sets of to his shift. He has six hours under the ground in front of him, without the possibility of either lunch or smoke break.

Miner Mikhail Ivanov must set its own clothes when he is at work in the state mine Zaira. Among the workers there fight on the latest equipment, so he must look after his pants and oxygen container so that it will not be stolen.

Miner Mikhail Ivanov must set its own clothes when he is at work in the state mine Zaira. Among the workers there fight on the latest equipment, so he must look after his pants and oxygen container so that it will not be stolen.

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Mikhail Ivanov began working in the mines because he wanted to earn money to support his family with Tatjana. For a long time it  was a good deal, but now inflation has made him work hard for little money.

Mikhail Ivanov began working in the mines because he wanted to earn money to support his family with Tatjana. For a long time it was a good deal, but now inflation has made him work hard for little money.

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Mikhail Ivanov (r) says he has experienced few deaths in his 25 year career as a miner, but it has been close several times.

Mikhail Ivanov (r) says he has experienced few deaths in his 25 year career as a miner, but it has been close several times.

After the day's shift.

After the day’s shift.

Mikhail Ivanov began working in the mines because he wanted to earn money to support his family with Tatjana. For a long time it  was a good deal, but now inflation has made him work hard for little money.

Mikhail Ivanov began working in the mines because he wanted to earn money to support his family with Tatjana. For a long time it was a good deal, but now inflation has made him work hard for little money.

14 years old Den, the son of Michael, have grown up in a city at war. But life is not always so different that of other boys around the globe. He loves football, buddies and his computer.

14 years old Den, the son of Michael, have grown up in a city at war. But life is not always so different that of other boys around the globe. He loves football, buddies and his computer.

Mining Entrepreneur: Alexandre Benois sold once toys in Snizhne. Now he has found a more lucrative industry: Mining in the woods. He insists that conditions are safe, but thinks it's too risky for us to go down into the depths.

Mining Entrepreneur: Alexandre Benois sold once toys in Snizhne. Now he has found a more lucrative industry: Mining in the woods. He insists that conditions are safe, but thinks it’s too risky for us to go down into the depths.

Alexandre Benois once sold toys in Snizhne. Now he has found a more lucrative industry: Mining in the woods. He insists that conditions are safe, but thinks it's too risky for us to go down into the depths. Photo: Kyrre Lien

Alexandre Benois once sold toys in Snizhne. Now he has found a more lucrative industry: Mining in the woods. He insists that conditions are safe, but thinks it’s too risky for us to go down into the depths. Photo: Kyrre Lien

One of the workers to the mine manager Aleksandr Belois taking a cigarette between labor roofs. This mine was once illegal, but the rebels have done all mines in eastern Ukraine lawful to bring in much-needed tax dollars.

One of the workers to the mine manager Aleksandr Belois taking a cigarette between labor roofs. This mine was once illegal, but the rebels have done all mines in eastern Ukraine lawful to bring in much-needed tax dollars.

Tolek, 20, has been working in illegal mines since he was 14. The mine he works in now has been legalized by the rebels.

Tolek, 20, has been working in illegal mines since he was 14. The mine he works in now has been legalized by the rebels.

When the wife of miner Mikhail, Tatjana Ivanov (left), is joined by her friends, the vodka disappears quickly. After laughter and vodka shots, they show us propaganda films about Donetsk People's Republic victory over Ukraine.

When the wife of miner Mikhail, Tatjana Ivanov (left), is joined by her friends, the vodka disappears quickly. After laughter and vodka shots, they show us propaganda films about Donetsk People’s Republic victory over Ukraine.

This kindergarten in Snizhne are refurbished and furnished by volunteers. The employees have had to work for free a few months of the war. The children we meet are remarkably quiet.

This kindergarten in Snizhne are refurbished and furnished by volunteers. The employees have had to work for free a few months of the war. The children we meet are remarkably quiet.