26 Sept, MOSCOW :

The UN refugee agency on Friday criticized Russia-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine for shutting the door on international aid, while the rebels themselves said the ban was instituted to restore order.

More than 8,000 people have been killed and more than 2 million people displaces in the fighting between separatist rebels and Ukrainian government troops in eastern Ukraine. With the Ukrainian government shutting down all public services in the rebel-held areas, aid from international organizations has been crucial for residents there.

United nation flag

The UNHCR said Friday that rebel leaders in Luhansk decided Wednesday to expel its staff along with other international agencies. The UNHCR deplored the decision and expressed hope it could be reversed.

“The UNHCR deeply regrets this measure, which comes at a critical time as harsher winter weather is about to hit,” it said.

The rebels have long been suspicious of foreign aid agencies, with some senior separatist leaders openly calling them spies. Officially, rebel leaders have said they are merely seeking to bring order to all of the groups operating in their territory.

Denis Pushilin of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic told the Interfax news agency on Friday that the rebels have accredited only the International Committee of the Red Cross so far because no one else has filed all the necessary documents.

Vasily Nikitin of the self-proclaimed neighboring Luhansk People’s Republic told local media on Friday that it has denied accreditation to Doctors Without Borders because of questions about keeping drugs that violated local laws. Rebel media have previously raised concerns that international organizations could be trafficking banned substances. AP