- The Washington Times - Monday, November 23, 2015

Government officials in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, have imposed a trade ban that for now will put a pause on goods going to Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula annexed by Russia last year that has since become a focal point for the rift between both nations.

“At my suggestion, the government has temporarily banned freight shipments across the administrative border between Ukraine and the Autonomous Republic of Crimea,” Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said on Monday.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has advocated for imposing a full-fledged ban that will halt all trade with Crimea and asked Mr. Yatsenyuk this week to begin assembling a working group to help plan its eventual implementation.

The prime minister said on Monday that Ukrainian officials will draft a whitelist of goods and services that will be allowed into Crimea, a 10,000-square mile peninsula to the south of mainland Ukraine that was claimed by Russia last March. First, however, the government in Kiev will seek input from Crimean Tatars, a minority Muslim community caught in the struggle between Ukraine and Russia.

“We are not satisfied with today’s status quo, when an occupying power neglects the basic rights of the Crimean Tatar people,” Mr. Poroshenko said on Monday. “Crimea is Ukrainian territory. We will defend the rights of the Crimean Tatar people and all Ukrainians who are living on occupied territory.”

Tatars loyal to Kiev and other pro-Ukrainian activists have been enforcing an unofficial blockade between mainland Ukraine and the peninsula since September in an effort to amplify their unhappiness with Russia’s annexation. The decision out of Kiev to push for trade restrictions follows a ruling made from Moscow last week that will see to it that Russian foods are banned from being imported to Ukraine effective the start of next year.

“I would like to emphasize that Ukraine will respond in similar ways,” Mr. Yatsenyuk said in response. “Every Russian embargo against Ukraine will be followed by a Ukrainian embargo against Russia.”

Trade has hardly been the main topic of discussion during the last few days of disputes, however; Crimea is currently in the midst of a national emergency after several electrical towers were destroyed over the weekend, creating blackout conditions for upwards of 2 million residents of the peninsula who largely depend on mainland Ukraine for power and other utility services.

Crimean Tatars have since denied sabotaging the towers, and officials in Kiev and Moscow have vowed to restore electricity as soon as possible.

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