The self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) in Donbass has called for a trade blockade on Kiev, in response to a previously imposed economic blockade by Ukraine, Sputnik reported.
The announcement was made on Friday by the leader of the DPR Alexander Zakharchenko. He said that Donbass residents have learned how live under a blockade by Ukrainian security officials.
“We are cutting all ties with Ukraine, with which we are at war. Yes, we were selling coal to get money and pay wages here. But due to the fact that we have learned to live in the blockade, we are declaring a blockade on Ukraine,” Zakharchenko told reporters.
In late December 2016, a so-called Ukrainian volunteer fighters group declared a trade and economic blockade on Donbass because trade operations with the self-proclaimed republics were “illegal”. But legal experts noted that in blockading transportation routes to Donbass, Kiev violates international law.
The blockade resulted in disruptions in anthracite coal shipments from Donbass, forcing the Kiev to introduce a state of emergency in the energy sector. On March 1, the self-proclaimed republics decided to impose similar measures on Ukrainian enterprises in Donbass in response to the transport blockade.
According to Dmitry Galochkin, a member of the Russian Civic Chamber, in the current situation the Donbass self-proclaimed republic had no alternative but to respond with symmetric measures.
“I think that soon the LPR will do the same. Of course, this is sad because there was one economy but now there are borders and barriers. But the DPR didn’t start this. It was Kiev,” Galochkin told Radio Sputnik. “What the DPR is doing is a tit-for-tat response. The self-proclaimed republic has run out of patience. People are dying, but Kiev is building barriers and imposing a blockade,” he said.
Galochkin suggested that the blockade would likely have a negative effect on the Ukrainian economy. “Ukrainian factories need coal from Donbass. They cannot work with other types of coal. The blockade is likely to be negative for the economy, including disruptions in the power-generating sector,” he said.
It is expected that Kiev may impose even stricter measures against the DPR and the LPR, Galoschkin said.
“The Ukrainian government may impose sanctions against certain individuals or simply harden its rhetoric. It’s clear that Kiev wants to portray not only the self-proclaimed republics as aggressors, but also Russia. It may also call for sanctions against Moscow. But all of Ukraine’s previous actions have only backfired on its economy,” he concluded.
The conflict in Donbass started in April 2014 as a reaction to the Maidan coup in Kiev that had toppled President Viktor Yanukovych. Residents of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions held independence referendums and proclaimed the People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. Kiev has since been conducting a military operation, in the face of prolonged local resistance.