Ukrainians Trapped Between Conflict and Coronavirus

A government checkpoint located on the line of contact A government checkpoint located on the line of contact 2018 Getty Images

2 April 2020

Dozens of Ukrainians are left without aid amid the COVID-19 crisis

Earlier this week, Ukrainian government officials decided to end movement across the conflict’s line of contact in eastern Ukraine in response to the spreading coronavirus crisis. Human Rights Watch reported that the Ukrainian government has not given adequate aid to the civilians who were stranded on the other side of the line of contact. The line of contact separates regions that are under Ukrainian control from regions under Russian control. The line of contact is often crossed by Ukrainians going to work, traveling to collect pensions, and visiting family members; in January 2020, there were over 1.2 million crossings. 

Ukraine and Russia have been engaged in conflict since 2014 when violence erupted in eastern Ukraine. Ukrainian separatist movements sprung up across eastern Ukraine calling for Russia to expand its territorial claims and control the region. Ukraine claims this is an invasion of their sovereignty. Russia has even gone as far as annexing the Crimea region in southeastern Ukraine. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has gotten involved in the conflict by sending aid to Ukraine; the UN has placed economic sanctions on Russia for its invasive tactics in southeastern Ukraine.

Both the conflict in Ukraine and the COVID-19 crisis have struck the international community by surprise. The intersection of the two has been called “a public health emergency” by Rachel Denber, deputy Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. The closing of the line of contact has left families separate amid the global pandemic. The Ukrainian government has allowed emergency crossings; since the emergency declaration that ended crossings, there have been around 100 people who have been allowed to travel across the line.


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Author: Vito Quaglia; Editor: Rachel Warner


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