The leader of the pro-Russian rebel group in Ukraine known as Donetsk People’s Republic has planned to cut all economic ties with the rest of the country in response to an economic blockade placed on the separatist-controlled city of Donbass.

"We are cutting all ties with Ukraine, with which we are at war. Yes, we were selling coal to get money and pay wages here. But due to the fact that we have learned to live in the blockade, we are declaring a blockade on Ukraine," Alexander Zakharchenko told local reporters Friday.

Former members of the Ukrainian military and an autonomous group of Kiev lawmakers barred Donbass’ access to freight rail lines used to export coal, its most valuable product, in January, Sputnik News reported. The pro-Kiev coalition declared that any trade with members of the Donetsk People’s Republic was illegal and that the transportation of any goods produced in Donbass would be considered smuggling.

Zakharchenko responded by declaring a blockade on Kiev Friday, saying, “We don’t need Ukraine in order to survive and live normally. It is they who need us.”

The rail blockade on Donbass has had devastating economic consequences for people on both sides of the conflict, as Donbass supplied the majority of coal used to power thermal power plants across the country.

Three steel and coal plants in the Donbass region have been forced to suspend their operations since the blockade, which has caused routine rolling blackouts in the rest of the Ukraine, BBC reported. The Ukrainian government declared a state of emergency in the country’s energy sector on Feb. 15 due to the coal shortage.

Authorities of the Donetsk People's Republic responded to the rail blockade by nationalizing more than 40 Ukrainian owned coal mines and factories in the Donbass region.

If the blockade on Donbass were to remain for the rest of the year it would result in the Ukrainian economy losing $2.5 billion in foreign export income, and approximately 30,000 jobs being at risk throughout the country. 

More than 9,750 civilians and militants have lost their lives in the armed conflict between Ukrainian and separatist forces since 2014.