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U.S. warns of Ukraine blockade effects, while France in opposition

The U.S. State Department is carefully monitoring the situation with the Ukrainian government’s trade blockade of Donbas, announced on March 15, and is counting on a peaceful outcome, acting spokesman Mark Toner said in a March 16 telephone briefing, as reported by Interfax-Ukraine. The situation could have “potentially negative consequences” on the fulfillment of the Minsk accords, he said.


The trade blockade of all the occupied districts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions (collectively known as "Donbas"), was made official yesterday with a presidential decree. The conditions for lifting the blockade include a full ceasefire and withdrawal of heavy armaments, in line with Minsk Accords requirements, as well as the return of seized enterprises on the occupied territories. Before that, activists launched a blockade of railroad routes with occupied Donbas in mid-February.


Taking a tougher position, France’s Foreign Ministry called for the Ukrainian government to drop its newly imposed blockade, particularly on railroad routes. “France is deeply concerned about the Ukrainian government’s March 15 decision to introduce a temporary blockade on transporting goods to the country’s east,” a ministry statement said.


Zenon Zawada: Western governments are concerned that the blockade creates another dimension to the Donbas conflict that makes the fulfillment of the Minsk Accords even more challenging. They are also concerned about worsened economic conditions for both Ukraine and the occupied territories.


Ukrainian President Poroshenko resisted the activist blockade for as long as he could. But considering the potential for a public rebellion that was growing, he decided the best way out of the conflict was to take control of the blockade himself. That way, his administration could determine its nuances and outcome, rather than it being used as a weapon against him.


So with control of the blockade, the government will be better able to ensure that it doesn’t harm its ability to continue to pursue the fulfillment of the Minsk Accords. We view the president’s move, controversial with Western governments, as a necessary step towards maintaining stability in very precarious times.

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