Ukraine’s government delivered a blow to plans to disrupt trade between Ukraine and Russian-controlled areas of Ukraine: Law enforcement agencies broke up an activists’ blockade of a railway line on March, 13.

The blockade organizers fear it could be the start of a much wider crackdown.

The police and Security Service of Ukraine, or SBU, arrested dozens of activists who were obstructing the railway connection between government-held and Russian-controlled territories at Kryvyi Torets train station, located near Toretsk, a city of 34,500 people, in Donetsk Oblast.

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Seven hundred kilometers southeast of Kyiv, it was one of the main stations connecting the Russian-backed separatist territories with the rest of Ukraine, through which coal, wood, and other cargos have been transported both ways despite Russia’s war against Ukraine.

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Several dozen activists, mostly volunteer battalions, stopped the railway connection and set up their protest camp there in late February.

“This outpost doesn’t exist anymore,” Volodimir Golovenko, a local resident told the Kyiv Post by phone, adding that police officers put the blockade participants into two police minivans and drove away. “The police and SBU arrested them. It took no more than one hour to break up their camp,” he said.

Semen Semenchenko, a lawmaker from Samopomich Party and one of the blockade’s organizers reported on his Facebook page that the officers of SBU showed up at Kryvyi Torets claiming they were looking for the separatist subversive group.

They checked the papers and demanded the blockade participants hand over their guns. The activists refused to do it, claiming they had their guns legally, which provoked a fight.

“The guys were severely beaten,” Semenchenko said referring to one of blockade participants, who managed to run away.

Police officers forcibly arrest one of the blockade participants. The railway connection is being restored.

The SBU confirmed they arrested 43 people in Toretsk, Shcherbynivka (a village near Kryvyi Toretsk station) and Kurdiumivka for refusal to hand over guns to the police offiers.

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“We are not storming anyone,” SBU spokeswoman Olena Gitlianska told the Interfax news agency. She said the SBU was conducting an operation against Russian-backed subversive groups.

In late February, the veterans of Donbas and Aidar volunteers battalions blocked the railway connection in Donbas explaining it with aims to release this way the Ukrainian war prisoners and stop smuggling in a war zone.

It didn’t achieve either of the goals but led to the shortage of the energy supplies on the both sides of the front line.

In response to the blockade, the Russian-backed separatists announced in early March the nationalization of the Ukrainian companies located on their territory, as a result of which Ukraine’s richest oligarch Rinat Akhmetov lost his businesses located on the separatist territory.

The activists of another volunteer battalion reported on the Facebook that another outpost, located near the city of Bakhmut in Donetsk Oblast, was also under the risk of a break-up.

Yegor Sobolev, another lawmaker from Samopomich and organizer of the blockade, called on the activists to rally in Kyiv in protest against the arrests of the blockade members.

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