Lucrative trade in war zone persists despite blockade that tries to stop it

A man speaks with a Ukrainian soldier as his car gets checked at the border crossing point in the Donetsk Oblast city of Mayorsk on Dec. 27.

Photo by Anastasia Vlasova

ZOLOTE, Ukraine – War-zone smuggling helped trigger a blockade of railway lines connecting Ukrainian-government controlled areas of the Donbas with Kremlin-held ones.

Launched on Jan. 25 by volunteer battalions and other activists, the blockade has resulted in panic in government, the seizure of Ukrainian enterprises by Russian-backed separatists and coal shortages. On March 9, ArcelorMittal Kryvyi Rih said its steel production was at risk of shutdown due to the blockade.

The ongoing blockade, however, has done little to stop smuggling. And fighters of the volunteer Aidar Battalion participating in the trade disruption have been accused by critics of profiting from smuggling themselves.

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