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Donetsk People’s Republic starts coal exports to Russia — leader

The first 95 rail cars with coal have already set off for Russia

DONETSK, March 15. /TASS/. The self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) has started exporting coal to Russia amid a rail blockade by Ukrainian radicals, DPR leader Alexander Zakharchenko said.

"Today the first 95 rail cars with coal have already departed to Russia," he was quoted as saying by the Donetsk News Agency.

Members of the so-called Ukrainian volunteer battalions, supported by a group of lawmakers, blocked cargo trains with coal from eastern Ukraine’s Lugansk Region on January 25. The right-wingers insisted that one of the objectives of their effort is to stop the inflow of contraband allegedly getting into Ukrainian territory from the self-proclaimed Lugansk and Donetsk republics. They later demanded that all trade ties with the areas outside the Kiev government’s control be cut.

The Security Service of Ukraine condemned the move, describing it as "populist" and "unlawful." A criminal case was opened. However, following little reaction from the Kiev officials, the radicals also blocked several roads.

The move forced the leadership of the self-proclaimed republics to make a joint statement on February 27 that they were ending coal supplies to Ukraine and will instead re-direct their exports for Russia.