KIEV Feb 16 Ukrainian authorities vowed on
Thursday to restore coal supply from the separatist-held Donbass
and warned that a blockade by activists could deprive millions
of heating and electricity, harm the steel industry and cost the
country some $2 billion.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said the blocking of a
railway link in the east by opposition lawmakers and army
veterans who fought against separatist factions was a
The European Union and the United States called for action
to prevent "a major energy crisis".
"Those responsible for the blockade must cease their actions
and the authorities must address this problem as a matter of
priority," an EU spokesman said.
"We are concerned by the current disruption to the coal
supply from the non-government-controlled areas of Donetsk and
Luhansk and its potential impact on Ukraine’s energy system, the
Ukrainian economy, and the Ukrainian people", the U.S. Embassy
to Ukraine said in a statement.
It called for a short-term solution to the crisis along with
a "much-needed reforms in the energy sector".
Ukraine's power stations and steel mills buy coal produced
by Ukrainian companies in separatist-held territory.
Activists behind the blockade call for a halt in this trade.
They argue it enriches the oligarchs and fuels the conflict that
broke out three years ago, after a pro-European uprising in Kiev
ousted a Moscow-backed president. About 10,000 have been killed
"The blockade will continue! All threats by the corrupt
authorities indicate that we are on the right path, and give us
the strength and inspiration to block all remaining ways of
financing terrorism and occupiers," the blockade organisers said
in a Facebook post on Thursday.
The government is gearing up for the possible energy crisis,
and Prime Minister Vladimir Groisman said on Wednesday he did
not rule out planned rolling blackouts during peak hours.
Poroshenko called a meeting of the National Security and
Defence Council on Thursday.
"We will find the best way to lift the blockade," he said.
"If the blockade is not lifted, the Ukrainian steel industry
could lose up to 300,000 jobs. And the state will lose up to $2
billion in foreign exchange earnings."
Hampering a key Ukrainian industry's export revenues will
destabilise the currency market and create additional
inflationary pressure, Poroshenko told the Security Council
Ukraine just emerged from two years of recession following
the 2014 annexation of Crimea and the outbreak of fighting
against pro-Russian separatists in the east, but still depends
on financial backing from the IMF and Western donors.
(Additional reporting by Gabriela Baczynska in Brussels;
Writing by Alexei Kalmykov; Editing by Alison Williams)