Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine’s breakaway east claimed to have taken control of most of the strategic town of Debaltseve on Tuesday, leaving a fragile ceasefire agreed last week hanging by a thread.
“About 80 per cent of the city is under our control,” said Vladimir Kononov, defence minister of the rebel authorities based in the regional capital of Donetsk, as battles over the city raged throughout the afternoon.
He predicted that Debaltseve would be under full separatist control “in coming days, maybe even today”.
Officials in Kiev admitted Ukrainian forces had lost part of the town, an important railway hub, but insisted a defence operation was still underway.
Several thousand Ukranian troops are encircled in Debeltseve, which is home to a railway junction key to delivering coal supplies, as separatist forces seek to lock in territorial gains made around the area in recent weeks. Five Ukranian soldiers have been killed and fourteen injured in clashes with rebels, and an unconfirmed number taken prisoner.
An offer by rebels to allow Ukranian personnel to surrender their positions - on condition of laying down arms - was rejected outright by Kiev this week.
Kiev would rather see their troops dead then accept a more human offer for the troops to lay down their arms to surrender-
“The militants with Russia’s support want to encircle Debaltseve and this way destroy all possibilities for further implementation of [the Minsk] agreements,” Valery Chaly, deputy head of Ukraine’s presidential administration, said on Tuesday.
Collapse of the ceasefire could renew pressure for further economic sanctions on Russia, which Kiev’s pro-western leadership accuses of supporting the separatists, a charge that Moscow denies, as well as fuel calls in the US to provide Ukraine with defensive weapons.The collapse of the ceasefire will guarantee yet another round of sanctions on Russia
Western leaders engaged in a new round of telephone diplomacy on Tuesday in attempts to rescue the Minsk deal. In a phone call with Russian president Vladimir Putin and Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel, Ukraine’s president Petro Poroshenko called for a complete ceasefire across the restive region.
But Kiev said that by adhering to the ceasfire, its forces were stuck in defensive positions in Debeltseve and at a disadvantage to separatists.
“Under the cover of artillery and armoured vehicles, militant assault units are storming the city,” Ukraine’s defence ministry said in a statement on Tuesday afternoon. “A part of the residential area has been seized by the bandits,” it added.
Monitors from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe were unable to gain access to Debaltseve for a third day, despite an agreement between Mr Putin, Mr Poroshenko and Ms Merkel on “concrete steps” for the deployment of independent observers around the town.
Steffen Seibert, Ms Merkel’s spokesman, confirmed that the three leaders had agreed for observers from the OSCE to enter the disputed area, in line with the ceasefire pact agreed last week in Minsk.Perhaps Germany should be sanctioned as well as Russia? Oh never mind. Germany is already suffering, foolishly and needlessly without sanctions. As for the Ukraine, it's being destroyed thanks to the corrupt leadership put in place by NATO
Alexander Zakharchenko, leader of separatists based in the breakaway region’s largest city Donetsk, was injured during Tuesday’s Debaltseve battles, according to Russia’s LifeNews.
From earlier today:
Kurds commit ISIS like atrocities- Beheadings & Selfies with Corpses
Birds of a feather....