Ukraine suspends pension payments in rebel east

Payments to resume when separatist attacks come to an end in Slavyansk and Kramatorsk, social policies minister says

Payments to resume when separatist attacks come to an end in Slavyansk and Kramatorsk, social policies minister says

SLAVYANSK, Ukraine – Ukraine has frozen pension payments to the separatist-held towns of Slavyansk and Kramatorsk amid ongoing operations to restore federal authority, a Ukrainian minister has said.

The pensions have been temporarily put on hold due to the risk of attacks against social workers, the Minister of Social Policies Lyudmila Denisova said on Tuesday.

“We are obliged to suspend these payments, which will resume when the situation comes back to normal,” she said.

Denisova said the government had enough money to make the payments and the outstanding payment stood at about five million hryvnias (US$420,000).

- Clashes erupt

In another development, four Ukrainian soldiers were wounded in a shootout between security forces and separatists in Slavyansk, pro-government activists said.

Dmitry Tymchuk, head of the Information Resistance Group which is considered close to the government, said separatists fired mortars at Ukrainian special forces positions on Mount Karachun, the town’s highest spot.

One separatist who spoke to the Anadolu Agency on condition of anonymity, confirmed that clashes had erupted between the two sides in the Karachun, Semenevka and Andreevka neighborhoods of Slavyansk.

The country’s rebellious Donetsk and Lugansk regions - where heavily-armed, pro-Russia militants have fortified themselves in dozens of the regions’ cities - have seen increasingly intense fighting as Ukrainian troops attempt to restore federal authority in areas held by separatist forces.

- Election boycott call

Separately, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said on Tuesday that the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe would send 100 monitors to oversee Ukraine's presidential election on Sunday.

“This election represents a real chance for Ukraine to regain economic and political stability,” Steinmeier told a joint press conference with his Ukraine counterpart, Andriy Deshchytsia, in Berlin.

He called on separatists to go to polling stations instead of boycotting the election.

Meanwhile, the undersecretary of Turkey’s foreign ministry, Feridun Sinirlioglu, will pay a visit to Moscow on Wednesday to discuss the Ukraine crisis and the situation of Crimean Tatars with high level Russian diplomats.

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