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Kiev halts all transport links with rebel-held E. Ukraine

Kiev halts all transport links with rebel-held E. Ukraine
Kiev has suspended all transportation links with the rebel-held territories of eastern Ukraine, formalizing the railway blockade imposed by activists in January. This marks a U-turn by Kiev, which had previously criticized the nationalists’ blockade.

“Taking into consideration that Ukraine’s enterprises have been seized and the security situation has worsened in the zone of the anti-terrorist operation, the National Security and Defense Council has made a decision to suspend movement of cargos through the contact line,” the head of the council, Alexander Turchinov, said at a meeting of the presidential administration on Wednesday, as cited by TASS news agency.

“Our wish is to prevent social strife,” Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko told the council.
Following the decision, all highways and railroads leading to the line of disengagement were blocked by the National Police and the National Guard starting at 1pm local time (11am GMT).
According to Turchinov, the blockade will be in place until points 1 and 2 of the February 2015 Minsk agreement are implemented by the Donbass republics, namely, a complete ceasefire and withdrawal of weapons, and until local enterprises allegedly “seized” by the Donbass authorities are back under Ukraine’s jurisdiction.

Speaking at the meeting earlier on Wednesday, Poroshenko called on authorities to suspend transport links with Donbass. “An exception will be made for humanitarian supplies – coming from Ukraine and international organizations – the UN, the Red Cross and others – like medicines and essential goods. We must not allow further deterioration of the humanitarian situation in the occupied territories,” he said.

Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov also noted that the transport ban will not include civilian transport.

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has called on the Ukrainian government not to escalate the Donbass situation further.

“Kiev, indulging the extremists who have blocked the railway connection to the region, has itself artificially created a problem for the normal economic functioning of local enterprises,” the Ministry’s official statement read.

“We call on the leadership of Ukraine to not bring the situation to a humanitarian catastrophe and to finally begin strictly implementing its own obligations under the Package of Measures [for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements], including the restoration of social and economic relations with the Donbass.”

The Donetsk rebels on Wednesday said Kiev’s transport blockade of the region contradicts the Minsk deal. The head of the Republic, Alexander Zakharchenko, also stated that the blockade will not affect the position of the Donetsk People’s Republic regarding Ukrainian enterprises located in the region.

“Since March 1, in response to the blockade from the Ukrainian side, we have introduced retaliatory measures, and this does not only refer to the external control placed on our enterprises that remained until recently in the Ukrainian jurisdiction. We also introduced a ban on the export of our products and raw materials to Ukraine,” Zakharchenko told the Donetsk news agency.