Russia's President Putin calls for Ukrainian troops to lay down arms
Iran Press TV
Thu Feb 12, 2015 2:17PM
Russia's President Vladimir Putin has called on the encircled Ukrainian troops in eastern regions of the country to lay down arms for a newly-signed ceasefire to take effect.
"Of course, they (pro-Russia forces) proceed from the assumption that this group will lay down arms and stop putting up resistance," Putin said after peace negotiations with the leaders of Germany, France and Ukraine in the Belarusian capital, Minsk, on Thursday.
Some 8,000 Ukrainian troops are now surrounded by the pro-Russians in the city of Debaltseve, following around two weeks of heavy fighting between the two sides. The battle for Debaltseve erupted after Ukrainian troops tried to storm a railway which connects two major strongholds of pro-Russia forces in the region, namely Lugansk and Donetsk.
The pro-Russians later cut off the only road linking the area to the Kiev-held territory and advanced nearly 10 kilometers into it to finally capture Uglegorsk, a main base of the Ukrainian army in the east of the country.
General ceasefire expected
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said after the Minsk talks that everyone expects a general ceasefire from February 15 without any preconditions.
However, Putin's demand on the surrounded Ukrainian troops to lay down arms may again trigger responses in Kiev.
A much-anticipated truce deal was finalized earlier Thursday when Putin, Poroshenko, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande agreed in the Belarusian capital to stop fighting in east Ukraine and to start withdrawal of the heavy weaponry from the frontlines.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is to supervise the implementation of the ceasefire deal on the ground.
President Putin said after the marathon talks, "I believe we agreed on a big deal. We agreed to a ceasefire starting at 00:00 on February 15."
The fighting between the Ukrainian army and pro-Russia forces in eastern Ukraine has taken a heavy toll on thousands of people since mid-April 2014. Over 5,500 people have died and some 12,200 wounded in the conflict, the UN says. Around 1.5 million people have been also forced from their homes over the past months of turmoil.
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