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Contact Group to discuss lifting Donbass economic blockade during next meeting

Wednesday’s meeting of the economic subgroup focused on issues of water supply to the conflict-hit zones

MINSK, June 5. /TASS/. The Contact Group on Eastern Ukrainian settlement will discuss the lifting the economic blockade that Kiev imposed on self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Lugansk (DPR and LPR), the OSCE special envoy said after a meeting in Minsk on Wednesday.

"This proposal was put forward by (the head of the Kiev government’s delegation) Leonid Kuchma," Special Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office in Ukraine and in the Trilateral Contact Group Martin Sajdik said. "This proposal was supported by representatives of certain districts of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions. This issue will be put forward for consideration at the economic subgroup session next time."

According to Sajdik, the Kiev government’s economic blockade was intended solely to break up all ties between the sides of the conflict.

"Therefore, we now need to make steps in the opposite direction," he said. "Lifting the blockade would mean huge progress."

The OSCE special envoy said that Wednesday’s meeting of the economic subgroup focused on issues of water supply to the conflict-hit zones.

Russian Envoy to the Contact Group Boris Gryzlov said earlier on Wednesday that the economic subgroup had already been tasked with "discussing the issue of restoring economic ties in the event of Kiev’s decision to lift the economic blockade of Donbass." Donetsk and Lugansk have already come up with specific initiatives on the matter, he added.

Earlier on Wednesday, head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) foreign ministry Natalya Nikonorova said that during the meeting of the Contact Group, representatives of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics have suggested immediately launching a direct dialogue with Kiev on solving the Donbass region’s pressing economic problems.

In particular, this includes mutual coordination of actions on lifting Ukraine’s economic blockade, namely "ensuring mutual access for industrial and humanitarian cargos, agreeing on managing industrial assets, distributing revenues and expenses on their activity, and also introducing compensations to the republics’ citizens for the damage due to the blockade, including losing jobs, unpaid pensions and social benefits."

Mass protests broke out in eastern Ukraine, mostly populated by Russian-speaking citizens, following a coup d’etat in Ukraine in February 2014 and President Viktor Yanukovich’s ouster. In mid-April of the same year, Kiev’s authorities launched a military operation in Donbass in response. Heavy shelling of residential areas, including with the use of aviation, caused a massive humanitarian disaster in the region. According to the UN, more than 10,000 people have been killed in the armed conflict and over 20,000 have been injured.

Simultaneously, Kiev introduced a full blockade of the region, severing all economic ties. The Ukrainian authorities stopped paying social benefits to the citizens of the territories not under their control.