KRYVYI RIH, Ukraine (AP) — The pops of welding torches and the piecing whine of angle grinders fill the spacious production floor at a steel plant in Kryvyi Rih, the city in central Ukraine that is President Volodymyr Zelenskyy ’s hometown.
Instead of doing their usual jobs producing and repairing mining equipment, some workers are busy building metal bunkers for front-line troops. Ukrainian mining and metals company Metinvest launched the project, and the plant workers say they are happy contributing to the resistance to Russia's invasion.
For now, that means assembling prefabricated materials into underground shelters using a Soviet-era design. They have already shipped 123 of the 2-meter (6 1/2-foot) -wide, 6-meter (20-foot) -long structures structures to areas that include eastern Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk provinces.
Each shelter requires nearly 2 tons of steel. The bunkers are built to withstand projectiles with calibers of up to 152 millimeters, can accommodate up to six soldiers and need to be buried 1.5 meters (about 5 feet) underground.
“This is so they can rest, sit out the attacks,” said Petro Zhuk, who manages the 40-person team building the shelters. Although the structures take 165 man-hours to produce including the prefabrication, his team can build one a day, Zhuk said.
The six beds inside are made of wood. The shelter also comes with a place to put a portable stove, a double floor that can be used to store weapons and an exit leading to the surface along with an entrance reached by tunnel, he explained.
Zhuk speaks compassionately of the Ukrainian troops he hopes will find a measure of comfort in the bunkers.
“While they are inside, they cannot worry about an attack that could happen while they are asleep,” he said. “They can be warm and comfortable.”
Metinvest also owns the Azovstal Iron and Steel Works, a fortress-like plant in the destroyed and now occupied city of Mariupol. During the months Mariupol was under siege, civilians and soldiers sheltered there, and the last-ditch stand Ukrainian forces made to defend the plant became a symbol of resistance against Moscow’s invasion.
In an interview with Ukrainian media, Metinvest CEO Yurii Ryzhenkov said the drawings for the bunkers were found in the company's archives, dating from when it was a Soviet enterprise. Back then, every plant had to produce something for the army, he said.
Vitalii Yevzhenko, 54, a plant worker involved in assembling the bunkers, said he thinks what he and his colleagues are doing is very important.
“This is for the victory of Ukraine. The sooner the war ends, the better it will be,” he said.
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