Ukraine cuts off rebel east as fighting rumbles on
Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko issued a decree Saturday ordering the withdrawal of all state services from rebel-held eastern regions, a further acknowledgement that the Kremlin-backed statelets are effectively breaking away.
The latest move towards splintering the war-torn ex-Soviet country came after fresh clashes between government troops and rebel fighters claimed at least five civilian lives, including those of two children, despite a nominal ceasefire that has failed to end the bloodshed.
The order from Poroshenko covers services such as schools, hospitals and emergency services, a senior security official speaking on condition of anonymity told AFP.
It was announced just over a week after Kiev implemented passport controls around pro-Russian separatist areas in the east, as well as the end of state payments including pensions in the areas.
2 million people live in areas affected by conflict in eastern Ukraine, according to the United Nations, centred on major cities such as Donetsk and Lugansk where rebels have declared breakaway states.
Poroshenko told his cabinet to take steps within a week “to terminate the activities of state enterprises, institutions and organisations in the various territories where anti-terrorist operations are being conducted,” a statement on his website said.
“This is a decisive step, the games have stopped,” the security official added.
“All the structures that the state finances will be withdrawn from there.
“”Ukraine will no longer finance them.
This includes schools, kindergartens and hospitals.
“The decree comes with the unrest in Ukraine high on the agenda at a G20 summit in Brisbane, where Western leaders are piling fresh pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin over the Kremlin’s backing for the rebels.
Putin intends to cut short his attendance at the summit Sunday, a source in his delegation said, after receiving a frosty reception, with Canada’s premier Stephen Harper reportedly telling him to “get out of Ukraine” in one curt exchange.
Russia denies involvement in the conflict, in which a shaky ceasefire agreed in September is in place, stopping some frontline fighting but not artillery bombardments around strategic hotspots.
The presidential decree also included orders for the evacuation of state workers plus the withdrawal of all courts and judges and relocation of prisoners.
In addition, it proposed that Ukraine’s central bank take steps over the next month to withdraw all banking services for businesses and individuals in the regions.
– Children die in shelling -As Kiev severed more of its ties with the east, officials said five civilians, including two children, and three more Ukrainian soldiers died in the latest fighting.
The civilian deaths came in Gorlivka, some 30 kilometres (18 miles) north of Donetsk, late Friday, the local council in the rebel-held city said.
It added that a further 12 people were also injured when artillery struck a residential area of the city, seriously damaging two apartment blocks and destroying six flats.
The council did not specify who fired the mortars.
Earlier Saturday, security officials in Kiev said three more Ukrainian soldiers had been killed in fighting in the east over the past 24 hours, taking to seven the total number of servicemen killed across the region in the past day.
The casualties were the latest in the seven months of fighting that the UN says has claimed over 4,100 lives and left nearly 10,000 people wounded.