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Luhansk Separatists Lift Ban On UN Humanitarian Agencies

  • RFE/RL

Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine's Luhansk region have agreed to lift a ban on humanitarian aid deliveries by UN agencies, an official with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said October 27.

"Today I announce with satisfaction that according the information we have received, the UN agencies can work in some areas of the Luhansk region," said OSCE mediator Martin Sajdik.

He said he hoped that separatists in the Donetsk region would soon follow suit.

Separatists last month had ordered United Nations agencies such as the World Food Program working in Lugansk to leave the area by September 25, citing their failure to meet accreditation requirements.

The Luhansk ban was followed last week by a similar ban imposed by pro-Russian separatists in the Donetsk region.

The bans have included private charities as well, such as Doctors Without Borders, which operates a unique anti-tuberculosis program in Donetsk prisons.

The Donetsk separatists spared the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Czech Republic's People in Need, however.

The easing of the ban on humanitarian groups by Luhansk separatists comes after Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko criticized the measures and a new round of European-organized peace talks began in Minsk October 27.

Despite the puzzling move to oust charity groups that offer in some cases irreplaceable medical care and other services, Russia and the Russian-backed separatists have blamed Ukraine for the growing humanitarian crisis in separatist-held areas.

Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova earlier this month blamed the crisis on "the military operation and trade and economic blockade imposed by Kyiv on the rebel regions."

The United Nations estimates that the Ukrainian conflict has killed more than 7,900 people and displaced 1.5 million.

With reporting by AFP and TASS