Ukraine’s Poroshenko threatens blockade on Russian-backed militants

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Ukraine’s president threatened on Wednesday to impose a temporary road and railway cargo transportation blockade upon Russian-backed breakaway enclaves after militants in the far eastern Donbas region moved to seize control over strategically important steel and coal enterprises.

Addressing his national security council on Wednesday, Petro Poroshenko said:

Today, I propose … to approve a decision to temporarily close transportation corridors – and not only of the railways – with the occupied territory. It is to be in effect until the occupiers return to Ukrainian jurisdiction stolen Ukrainian factories.

Mr Poroshenko made clear that only humanitarian aid will be allowed to flow across front lines of the war-torn region, where millions of residents amid a nearly three-year simmering war have scrapped to survive.

Some have earned a living through small-time trading across frontlines while others have continued to work at factories within the separatist region that operated under Ukrainian law and paid state taxes until being halted and seized days ago.

Mr Poroshenko’s proposal was upheld by the security council minutes later and is now to be implemented by the country’s government.

While addressing his security chiefs, Mr Poroshenko blamed developments on domestic political rivals who since late January orchestrated blockades of railways, preventing coal needed for power generation from being shipped from separatist regions to generators on government controlled turf.

This week, Ukrainian security officials forcefully cleared one of three railway blockades, freeing it up for coal shipments. But sporadic clashes with protesters taking part in the blockades have heightened tensions.

Security chiefs would, Mr Poroshenko said, meet later to discuss possible sanctions to be imposed on Russian banks for allegedly accepting as clients individuals presenting internationally-unrecognised passports issued by the separatist Donetsk and Lugansk self-declared republics.

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