The transport blockade of Donbas has put Ukraine in harm’s way, Kyiv’s representative to the Trilateral Contact Group for Donbas and former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma said.

“Such methods are not helping [Ukraine], their effect has been quite the opposite,” Kuchma told reporters in Kyiv on Feb. 27 in his comments on the transport blockade of Donbas and the ultimatum given to Kyiv by the separatists leaders.

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Russia has been taking advantage of the situation to persuade the people of Donbas into siding with it, Kuchma said. “The decision regarding passports is also related to the blockade: we [Russia] will meet them halfway if Ukraine is unwilling to do so,” he said.

Ukraine should be resolving problems at the level of the parliament, the government and the president, Kuchma said. “True, there are problems and no one has been denying that: let the parliament, the government and the president set up a commission of representatives of the Ukrainian Security Service and customs officers […] and see what is really going on there,” he said.

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Most of the time, Ukraine lets problems run their own course, and everyone watches where they may lead; however, problems of this kind need to be handled urgently, he said.

Responding to a follow-up question as to whether the blockade might help release captives held by the separatists, Kuchma said, “What does this have to do with captives? I can see no relation to captives whatsoever.”

The separatists leaders Alexander Zakharchenko and Igor Plotnitsky made a joint statement on Feb. 27 demanding that Kyiv lift the Donbas transport blockade before spring. If this is not done, they warned they would appoint external management at every enterprise under the Ukrainian jurisdiction which operates in their territory and would stop coal supply to Ukraine.

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