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Rebel Leaders Ask Merkel, Hollande to Help End Kiev Blockade

And begin paying out welfare services to Donbass residents once again - as envisaged by the Minsk 2 agreement that Merkel and Hollande helped broker

This article originally appeared at Deutsche Welle

Alexander Zakharchenko and Igor Plotnitsky, the elected leaders of Donetsk and Luhansk, called for an end to Kyiv's embargo on government services in eastern Ukraine on Saturday.

In an open letter to [German] Chancellor Angela Merkel and [French] President Francois Hollande, they asked the leaders who helped negotiate the ceasefire in Ukraine to use their "influence to encourage Ukrainian offices to begin paying out welfare services to Donbass residents once again."

The government in Kyiv placed an embargo on social services to the country's eastern residents in November following what it deemed illegal elections that gave power to Zakharchenko and Plotnitsky.

Karte Grenzverlauf umkämpfte Gebiete in der Ost-Ukraine Englisch

The rebels hold large swathes of territory

Although the European Union, the United States and the United Nations also condemned the polls, the UN warned in December that Kyiv's embargo might be a violation of its obligations to citizens in the rebel-held territory.

"The fate for many [in those areas] may well be life-threatening," the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said."

Kyiv had not only ceased paying out pensions, but had also relocated hospitals, schools and prisons, leaving a what the UNHCHR described as a "severe protection gap."

Ceasefire violations

The open letter to Merkel and Hollande also pointed to numerous violations of a ceasefire, which was implemented in February.

Both Kyiv and Donbass have blamed each other for not upholding the truce.

Over the weekend, three soldiers were killed by a landmine near Donetsk. Those were the first deaths reported since Monday, when one soldier was killed.

Fighting in the region has claimed roughly 6,000 lives since last spring.

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