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Ukrainian radicals poised to block railways leading to Donetsk, Lugansk

The right-wingers insist that one of the objectives is to stop the inflow of contraband allegedly getting into Ukrainian territory from Lugansk and Donetsk

KIEV, January 26. /TASS/. Ukrainian radicals have made public their plans to block indefinitely all the railways connecting the self-proclaimed unrecognized Donetsk and Lugansk republics of eastern Ukraine with the parts of the country loyal to the Kiev government, Vladimir Parasyuk, a deputy of the Verkhovna Rada said on Thursday.

"Mobile staffs will be set up and all the railways will be blocked," he told Ukraina 112 channel. "The action will last more than just one or two days - it will be indefinite."

The right-wingers insist that one of the objectives of their effort is to stop the inflow of contraband allegedly getting into Ukrainian territory from the Lugansk and Donetsk republics.

To facilitate an expansion of the zone of blockade, a number of deputies of the Rada and former militants from the so-called volunteer battalions who had previously taken part in the government-sponsored ‘antiterrorist operation’ in eastern Ukraine were arriving in the area to throw their shoulder into the effort.

On Wednesday, militants from the so-called volunteer battalions blocked the traffic of cargo trains at the Lugansk-Lisichansk-Popasnaya line, by which coal is supplied to the Lugansk thermoelectric plant. The action affected twelve freight trains with a total of more than 700 coaches.

In the meantime, Georgy Tuka, a deputy minister for what Kiev calls ‘the temporarily occupied territories’ said the blockade might endanger supplies of electricity to the parts of the Lugansk region under Kiev’s control, as supplies of coal to the Lugansk thermoelectric plant located in the self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic had been disrupted.

Yuri Garbuz, the head of the military/civilian administration of the Lugansk region, issued a warning that the blocking of railways in the Lugansk region might result in blackouts not only there but also put out of operation the thermal power plants in central and western Urkaine.

"The action undertaken by some deputies (of the Verkhovna Rada) and former fighters of the Donbass and Aidar volunteer battalions poses risks for the country’s energy security," he wrote in Facebook.

He said the radicals had blocked the traffic of trains carrying coal across the line of contact in Donbass to replenish reserves at the power plants belonging to the government.

"The protesting activists blocked empty coaches meant for transportation of coal to the territories under Ukrainian control," Garbuz wrote. "If supplies of coal don’t resume, thermal power plants in central and western Ukraine will be affected."

On the face of it, authorities in the districts controlled by the Kiev government kept silent and displayed full inaction on Thursday.

One of the far-right radicals, Semen Semenchenko who represents Samopomich (Self-Assistance) caucus in the Rada, claimed local police forces, SBU security service officers, and the military including the border guards were all supporting the blockade. Tatiana Pogukai, a spokeswoman for the pro-Kiev police in the Lugansk region went as far as to describe the blockade as a public action.

Nonetheless, the press secretary of the Lugansk regional Prosecutor’s Office, Anna Zykova said the prosecutors had instituted a criminal case over the blocking of traffic at the railway. She admitted, however, no reports on the ‘action’ had come from the Interior agencies.

Ukrainian authorities launched the economic blockade of Donbass on November 15, 2014, when President Pyotr Poroshenko signed an executive order on stopping the payments of social benefits including pensions in the zone of armed conflict in eastern Ukraine.

The ban affected the servicing of private and corporate bank accounts, among other things. Authorities in the self-proclaimed republics called the decree ‘an act on genocide and impoverishment of the people’.

As of January 2015, the Kiev authorities imposed restrictions on commodity supplies to the districts outside of their control and stopped them altogether later on, simultaneously stipulating the rules for trips across the line of conflict.

A number of deputies in Kiev have more than one called for maintaining the blockade of eastern Ukrainian territories outside the government’s control but to fence them off in the literal sense of the word and to build a mighty security belt around them.