A coal blockade targeting separatist eastern Ukraine began in January, with ultra-nationalist groups blocking rail traffic into the breakaway region. Today, the separatists responded by seizing a number of coal mines and related factories across the country’s east.
The Ukraine government had publicly opposed the blockade, warning it risked blackouts and factory closures if the coal wasn’t allowed to flow. At the same time, they proved unable to stop the ultra-nationalists stopping the shipments, even when the rebels started threatening to seize mines, as they ultimately did.
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson was quick to condemn the move by the separatists, and quick to insist it was all Russia’s fault, insisting that Russia had “encouraged” the behavior. Russian officials noted the incident would never have happened if the blockade hadn’t continued.
In addition to the mines and steel factories, the offices of Ukrtelecom were also seized in the nation’s east, which temporary cut phone service to about 200,000 people in the area. The separatists had originally threatened to target all western-based businesses’ eastern offices, but it is unclear exactly how far that has gone.