Hundreds of thousands suffer from closed checkpoints in eastern Ukraine

The negative consequences of the conflict, which has been going on for 6 years in eastern Ukraine, have been exacerbated by quarantine. For almost three months, the entry/exit crossing points (EECPs) along the ‘contact line’ have been closed in accordance with measures intended to contain the spread of COVID-19. New circumstances provoke huge problems for those, who left their home, crossed a ‘contact line’ and now can't get back.

Starting 14th of March 2020 all checkpoints were closed due to COVID-19 outbreak. Just on June 10th, the Ukrainian government announced withdrawing of that prohibition at two checkpoints but the de-facto authorities in non-government-controlled area (NGCA) have not confirmed. Currently, two of the five checkpoints are partially operational, and only a few dozen people have been able to cross it.

3. New . EECP (2)

An IDP Serhiy, 54, for months can’t return to Melitopol, where he moved from Luhansk after the conflict in eastern Ukraine began. Serhiy and his family decided to leave the city when a shell fell 250 meters from their home. However, his 88-year-old mother still lives in Luhansk — she broke her leg at the beginning of quarantine.

“I wanted to spend three days here and return, but they did not allow me. Now I have been living here for months. Thank God, that I somehow managed to transfer the money — my wife doesn’t work,” says Serhiy.

There are no conventional financial services in the NGCA. To support his family Serhiy gives the sum to the friend's mother in Luhansk, NGCA. Then the friend, who lives in Kharkiv, GCA, sends the same amount to Serhiy’s wife. She lives with three children in a rented apartment.

Fortunately, Serhiy manages to earn extra money in Luhansk. Old customers turn to him while he is in town. The man is a mechanical engineer by profession but for many years he had been working as a police officer. After retiring, he makes some money repairing equipment.

1 Old . EECP

In 2018, he was provided with a grant from Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and The Department for International Development (DFID), for which he was able to buy an infrared welding station. “In Melitopol, I repair everything that people bring. Thanks to the new equipment, the neighbouring workshop gives me complex orders, for example, repairing laptop boards,” says Serhiy.

Last year an average of 1.2 million individual crossings across the ‘contact line’ was recorded. This figure is similar to 2018. Almost 90 per cent of people crossing are from NGCA seeking to address issues with documentation, withdraw cash and avoid suspension of their social payments in GCA.