90% of Ukraine troops retreat from Debaltseve: Spokesman
Iran Press TV
Thu Feb 19, 2015 9:56AM
A vast majority of Ukrainian forces have retreated from the strategic eastern Ukrainian town of Debaltseve, which has been besieged by pro-Russia forces, a Ukrainian military spokesman says.
Anatoliy Stelmakh, a Ukrainian military spokesman, said on Thursday that more than 90 percent of Ukrainian troops have withdrawn from the contested city and its surroundings.
The spokesman, however, did not delineate when the withdrawal from the city will be completed.
He further accused pro-Russia forces of shelling a village on the outskirts of the port city of Mariupol on Wednesday.
The pro-Russia forces staged five artillery strikes on Debaltseve overnight, thus "grossly violating the peace accords" that came into effect on February 14, Stelmakh claimed in a televised address on Wednesday.
"We are evacuating some of our units," Ilya Kiva, a local police officer in Debaltseve, said on Wednesday morning, adding, "But full-scale street fighting continues, and there was also a small tank battle."
The pro-Russians said they have the town under their control and offered the Ukrainian military forces a chance to give in, an allegation that was denied by Kiev.
The new deal endorsed by the leaders of Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine called for a ceasefire and the withdrawal of heavy armaments as the initial steps toward a political settlement of the Ukrainian conflict.
Also on Wednesday, Eduard Basurin, a spokesman for the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, said a large number of Ukrainian troops had surrendered in Debaltseve. Russian state-owned television aired images of some Ukrainian troops being escorted by the pro-Russians along a road.
The pro-Russia forces and Kiev troops have been battling for Debaltseve for weeks; the town connects Donetsk and Luhansk, the strongholds of the pro-Russians in eastern Ukraine.
Both cities have been hit by deadly clashes between the pro-Russia forces and the Ukrainian army since Kiev launched military operations in April last year to crush pro-Russia protests there.
In May 2014, the situation in the two flashpoint cities started to worsen as residents overwhelmingly voted for independence from Ukraine in referendums.
Nearly 5,700 people have been killed and close to a million have been displaced since the armed conflict began in eastern Ukraine.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|