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Does Ukraine need to buy coal on the occupied part of Donbas? 

Does Ukraine need to buy coal on the occupied part of Donbas? 
Article by: Zhanna Bezpyatchuk
Translated by: Mariya Shcherbinina
Kyiv – The Ukrainian government is examining the possibility of exporting coal from Donbas in exchange for gas and electricity, claims Arseniy Yatseniuk. He emphasizes, however, that Ukraine will not agree on this with the ‘DNR’ or ‘LNR,’ but the representatives of Ukrainian companies whom the coal mines belong to. Besides, the government is trying to agree with international organizations on ensuring access for humanitarian cargo to the terrorist-controlled territories. This is the response of the Ukrainian government to the threat of a humanitarian catastrophe on the territories it does not control. 

The Ukrainian Prime Minister emphasizes again that Ukraine would not talk with representatives of illegal formations which occupied some districts in Eastern Ukraine.

“Ukraine does not talk to terrorists,” he told the press.

However, Arseniy Yatseniuk reported that Ukraine is trying to hold talks regarding the possibility of organizing export of coal which is extracted on the territories controlled by pro-Russian mercenaries – in exchange for gas and electricity.

“The government decided to ensure gas and electricity supplies to Donetsk and Luhansk. We are doing everything to prevent humanitarian catastrophe,” he said.

According to the head of the Cabinet of Ministers, besides bartering, the government may subtract the cost of gas and electricity which will be supplied to occupied territories from social support (subsidies, dues) intended for the occupied territories.

At the same time, to Radio Liberty’s question as to whom the Cabinet of Ministers would have to agree with regarding the supply of coal from the territories occupied by illegal armed formations, Arseniy Yatseniuk answered: “Talks can only be held with Ukrainian companies who own the coal mines in the districts of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts which were occupied by pro-Russian mercenaries.”

Expert: miners need salaries, not exchanging coal for gas

Yury Korolchuk, expert from the Energy Strategy Institute, thinks that in general the idea to buy coal from the companies on occupied territories is right, otherwise it would end up on the black market.

“Mines may start working, but they will supply coal to contraband markets. It will end up in Russia, and we will most likely buy it from there. So there are two options: either we agree and buy this coal, thus supporting certain groups of the population, so we show that we have not forgotten about them; or we don’t do this and throw them out of Ukraine,” says the expert.

However, Yury Korolchuk adds that when we are talking about coal supplies from Donbas, what is at stake are the lives of the people who work at the mines. In case of bartering, it is unclear whether they will receive their due salaries. Without this the entire scheme is unrealistic, according to expert.

“We are not talking about some subject like the ‘DNR’ or ‘LNR.’ We are talking about certain people who will work, who will extract this coal and hand it over to Ukraine. How will ‘LNR’ and ‘DNR’ allow free of charge coal supplies? This is a fantasy, a dead-end. Yatseniuk’s proposal reminds me of an attempt to offer a preemptively problematic solution,” notes Yury Korolchuk.

The Independent Miner Union reported that in October, over half of the mines in Donbas had stopped working (over 80), out of which over ten at that moment were being flooded, and seven had already been flooded. One of the main owners of the coal mines, besides the Ukrainian state, is DTEK, owned by Rinat Akhmetov.

Ukraine will try to send humanitarian assistance to the occupied territories

Besides ensuring salaries for the miners, a no less pertinent issue is the problem of helping pensioners and socially vulnerable citizens who live on the occupied territories and cannot leave them to re-register their pensions for the lack of money or health reasons.

Arseniy Yatseniuk emphasized that the pro-Russian separatists do not allow transport with Ukrainian humanitarian cargo to cross the demarkation line between free Ukraine and the territories occupied by the ‘DNR’ and ‘LNR.’

In light of this, Ukraine asked the Red Cross and other international organizations for help.

“We asked the Red Cross, the UN, the OSCE and other international organizations to help ensure access to the territories controlled by Russia,” stated Arseniy Yatseniuk.

The head of government said that Ukraine had tried to send humanitarian assistance to the terrorist-controlled territories several times, however they did not allow it to go through each time.

When Radio Liberty asked when we may expect this humanitarian cargo to reach the occupied territories with the support of international organizations, Arseniy Yatseniuk answered that Putin’s regime shoulders full responsibility for the humanitarian catastrophe on these territories. According to him, the people have become “hostages of Putin’s regime.”

“The sooner Russia leaves the territory of Ukraine, the faster we will be able to send all things necessary there,” he emphasized.

Throughout the past week, a wave of social protests caught the cities in the districts of Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts which are controlled by the mercenaries. The people are demanding that the self-proclaimed government pay their social support, pensions, salaries, which they have not seen for several months now.

Translated by: Mariya Shcherbinina
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