Wednesday, February 22 2017 16:54 EET
Military
Participants of the Donbas blockade meet with Prime Minister Groysman
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On the 20th of February, participants in the blockade of trade with the territories of the Donbas not controlled by Ukraine accepted Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman’s invitation and came to the negotiation table in the hope of resolving the conflict caused by the blockade.

The conflict between the authorities of Ukraine and war veterans in Eastern Ukraine arose after war veterans blocked several railway crossings at the end of January 2017. They are demanding the release of Ukrainian prisoners in the separatist territories, as well as the breaking off of all trade with the uncontrolled territories.

During ceremonies on the occasion of the third anniversary of the tragic events in Maidan [18-20th of February 2014], a rally took place in Kyiv in support of the trade blockade. A scuffle even broke out between participants and the police. Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman then called on the leaders of the protest to convene at the Cabinet of Ministers. He made a post to this effect on his Facebook page on the 20th of February.

“I summon everyone who is truly interested in resolving this set of problems [regulation of the movement of goods to the uncontrolled territories and trade with the separatist] to professional discussion and collaboration. The government is prepared to be the venue for such collaboration,” Groysman wrote.

On the 21st of February it became clear that this meeting had taken place. Dmitry Stolyarchuk, Press Secretary of the Prime Minister, confirmed this on Facebook. According to him, during the meeting with the participants in the Donbas blockade, Groysman stated that the government is prepared to intensify the regulation of the movement of goods to Eastern Ukraine within the limits of their authority.

“During the meeting, the head of government stressed once more that it is primarily the ordinary Ukrainians who are suffering from the blockade: there is a risk of outages in heat supply, electricity supply and a possible loss of jobs” - Stolyarchuk informed.

He also added that Groysman “spoke in favor of intensifying the fight against contraband in the territories adjacent the front line, and intensifying the regulation of goods which move between the controlled and uncontrolled territories”.

“At the same time, he [Groysman] emphasized that the energy situation and the strategy of acquiring Ukrainian energy independence have to be the subject of extensive political dialogue, because they require steps from both the executive and the legislative authorities,” the Press Secretary of the Prime Minister added.

The Headquarters of the Donbas blockade gave a bit more detail about the negotiations. The Headquarters had two propositions for Groysman. The first was ensuring the immediate release of prisoners. The second was to adopt a law regarding the temporarily occupied territories which legislatively prohibits any trade. According to the Headquarters’ information, Groysman, in turn, allegedly proposed that representatives of the Headquarters join a commission for “prisoner exchange”.

In addition, according to the Headquarters’ report, the Cabinet of Ministers is revoking the authorization of the movement of goods issued by the SBU, and is issuing a resolution which regulates the movement of freight according to the law on the fight against terrorism.

With respect to adopting a law concerning the temporarily occupied territories, the Prime Minister told representatives of the Headquarters that he cannot influence the decisions of MPs. In addition, the supporters of the blockade demanded that this law be adopted in the Verkhovna Rada. According to the information of MP Semen Semenchenko, organizer of the blockade, the protesters added that the bill should still be placed on the agenda. Voting on it is expected on the 23rd of February.

Later it came out that the blockade Headquarters are thinking of not accepting Volodymyr Groysman’s proposition for resolving the conflict caused by the blockade. Anatoly Vinogrodsky, blockade Headquarters coordinator and second commander of the Donbas battalion, made a statement to this effect.

“We are already discussing, and I’m inclined to think that we will not accept [the Prime Minister’s proposition]”, Vinogrodsky said. The Headquarters needs to make its final decision in one to two days.

He added that Groysman’s propositions do not deal with the demands which the blockade participants proposed.

On the 21st of February, information also came out that the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine (NSDC) has already formulated a resolution concerning the unblocking of the railway along which the shipment of anthracite coal from the occupied Donbas territories takes place. However, according to George Tuka, Deputy Minister for the temporarily occupied territories and internally displaced persons of Ukraine, nobody wants to use force. Tuka stated that it is precisely on account of reluctance to use force that Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman decided to enter into negotiations with representatives of the blockade on trade with the occupied Donbas territories.

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