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Kyiv, Rebels Agree on Weapons Pullback

Nationalist-led blockade on goods coming from rebel zone threatens to cripple heavy industry.

16 February 2017

Ukraine’s government and separatist forces have agreed to pull back heavy weapons from the front lines by 20 February.

 

Ukraine, Russia, and the separatists agreed to the withdrawal yesterday after a fresh round of talks in the Belarusian capital, Minsk, according to the OSCE’s lead negotiator for the talks, Martin Sajdik, according to AFP.

 

Renewed fighting around rebel-held areas in Donetsk and Luhansk regions earlier this month resulted in several dozen deaths around the town of Avdiivka, near Donetsk. Outbreaks of fighting then spread along the 500-kilometer front line, the Los Angeles Times reports.

 

Previous deals to withdraw heavy weapons have crumbled as the three-year conflict ebbed and flowed. The peace process outlined in Minsk remains a work in progress, with little progress to show on the crucial issue of greater autonomy for the separatist regions.

 

There are fears the fighting around Avdiivka could put the country’s already stressed heavy industries under more pressure, the Los Angeles Times writes.

 

Coke and chemical plants near Avdiivka. Image by MOs810/Wikimedia Commons.

 

The fighting halted shipments from a coal processing plant to iron and steel works in the government-held industrial city of Mariupol, where the sounds of nearby artillery have been heard recently after a calm spell.

 

Vital deliveries from the eastern industrial heartland have already been suspended owing to a railroad blockade by nationalist volunteers led by several members of parliament, aimed at stopping both contraband and legal trade with separatist areas.

 

On 27 January parliamentarian Volodymyr Parasyuk said "the action will last more than just one or two days – it will be indefinite," RFE/RL reported.

 

 

 

  • Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman warned yesterday that the railroad freight blockade could shut down Ukraine’s metallurgical industry.

 

  • "The metallurgical industry now employs 300,000 people. What we sell abroad makes up 20 percent of all of our state's foreign currency earnings. [The blockade] cannot be called anything but sabotage of the economy!" Groysman said at an extraordinary government meeting, Interfax-Ukraine reports. He said those leading the blockade were welcome to block smuggled goods and anything else except for coal and other goods needed by the economy.

 

  • Russia’s Foreign Ministry has strongly restated its claim to Crimea after a White House spokesman said President Donald Trump had made it clear that he expects Russia to relinquish control of the Ukrainian territory, which it annexed in 2014.

 

  • “We don't give back our own territory. Crimea is a territory belonging to the Russian Federation," ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said yesterday, according to news agency reports.

Compiled by Ky Krauthamer

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