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Ukrainian police detain 45 amid crackdown on trade blockade with Russian-backed “republics”

March 13, Shcherbynivka, Donetsk region. Ukrainian law enforcers dispersing the activists of the Donbas trade blockade. Credit: The Donetsk Oblast police
Ukrainian police detain 45 amid crackdown on trade blockade with Russian-backed “republics”
Activists have been blocking several railway lines connecting government-controlled Donbas with its occupied parts since January. In their opinion, the terrorists of Russian-backed “people’s republics” get their profits from commerce with Ukrainian companies. The blockade created obstacles for the transportation of coal for anthracite-fired power plants in Ukraine and of iron ore raw materials for steel works on the occupied territories. On March 1, Donbas “republics” seized Ukrainian assets in the occupied territories, blaming the blockade.

On March 13, the “Headquarters of the trade blockade with the invaders” posted statements claiming the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) backed by an APC and police special forces attacked a “redoubt” (staged checkpoint) at Kryvyi Torets station in the village of Scherbynivka, Donetsk Oblast. The checkpoint was set by campaigners to block the railway line connecting occupied Yasynuvata and government-controlled Kostyantynivka.

“Information about the storming of the checkpoint has been confirmed. The facility in Kryvyi Torets has been taken over by the SBU and KORD (Ukrainian police’s special weapons and tactics force) troops. The headquarters is trying to defend other checkpoints and seeking the release of blockade activists who are illegally in custody,” the blockade organizers said.

The SBU reported it was conducting counter-insurgency operations in the Anti-Terrorist Operations (ATO) zone.

The blockade activists published a video showing the police SWAT team detaining the campaigners:

Donetsk regional police chief Vyacheslav Abroskin posted a video showing weapons seized from detainees:

The SBU said it arrested 43 activists during a special operation in Toretsk, Shcherbynivka, and Kudryumivka when they refused to surrender their weapons. Later Donetsk Oblast police chief Abroskin mentioned 45 detained persons.

As a public response to the law enforcers’ move, from tens to hundreds rallied in Kyiv, Lutsk, Lviv, Kharkiv and other big cities across the country overnight into March 14.

The Donetsk regional police reported, 20 detained blockaders were released as of 00:17 EET. MP Oksana Syroid wrote all detainees have been freed as of 01:08 according to the Security Service of Ukraine, “We’ve managed to get into contact with six out of forty-six. All data has been wiped from their [mobile] phones“, Syroid said. Later one of blockade organizers MP Semen Semenchenko aclaimed, “Most of them [released protesters – YZ] have been left without money and documents“.

Abroskin said that as of the morning of March 14 all of the detainees were freed, “none of them has bodily injuries“. “All injuries have been documented“, MP Semenchenko opposed.

A resident of Novhorodske affirms that on March 13 and 14 no trains entered from the occupied territories along the railway line connecting Yasynuvata and Kostyantynivka.

  • A trade blockade of the occupied parts of Donbas was launched on January 25 by demobilized soldiers and veterans of Ukrainian volunteer battalions under the direction of the several lawmakers, Shypilove-Svitlanove rail section which connects occupied Luhansk to government-controlled Lysychansk and Popasna was blocked.
  • Blockade activists said that trading with the occupied areas is equal to trading on blood. In their opinion, the militants get their profits from commerce with Ukrainian companies. Authorities are of the opinion that the blockade should be ceased as the country’s energy security is under a threat.
  • On February 11 another rail section was blocked between government-controlled Kostiantynivka and occupied Yasynuvata.
  • On February 9, activists led by 2 MPs rallied in support of the blockade in Kyiv, the protest ended in clashes with riot police, 5 were detained
  • On March 1, “LDNR” (Luhansk and Donetsk “people’s republics”) “nationalized”46 companies, which were operating under Ukrainian jurisdiction on the occupied territories, paying taxes to Ukraine’s budget and salaries in hryvnia to their workers.
  • On February 14, Alchevsk Metallurgical Plant (AMK), an ironworks in the uncontrolled area of Luhansk Oblast, suspended iron smelting.
  • On February 20,  the Metinvest Group operating factories on both sides of the frontline reported that its plant and coal company in the occupied regions halt production
  • On March 13, Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration Kostyantyn Yeliseiev said that the blockading of the occupied territories prevents Ukraine’s European partners from taking a decision to impose additional sanctions against Russian companies who will continue relations with the militant-expropriated Ukrainian enterprises in the occupied territories. Meanwhile, the EU Council extended the “old” sanctions, prolonging the restrictive measures over actions “undermining or threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine” until September 15, 2017. The measures consist of asset freezes and travel bans for 150 persons and 37 entities. 
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