DONETSK, Ukraine: Vodafone mobile service has been partially restored in war-torn east Ukraine after a fibre optic line cut in January left up to two million people without cell phone coverage, rebel authorities said Saturday.

“Yesterday the Vodafone operator resumed its work in the Donetsk People’s Republic,” a spokeswoman for the rebel region’s communications ministry told AFP.

She said Vodafone specialists were expected to arrive in the region, adding more time was needed for the complete restoration of the service.

Cell coverage was already available in the regional capital Donetsk but there was no service on the outskirts of the city and a number of other places.

Up to two million people were left without cell phone access after Vodafone — the last major mobile operator in the region — suffered a fibre optic line cut in January.

The outage had all but severed communication between Ukrainians living on opposite sides of the front line.

While mobile phone access was quickly restored in the fellow rebel stronghold of Lugansk, Donetsk residents had remained without proper cellular coverage.

Phoenix, a local mobile phone provider launched by the Moscow-backed authorities in 2016, has reaped the benefits of the communications blackout.