On Monday, Feb. 16, it was announced that the pro-Russian rebels will release the Ukrainian troops on one condition: in exchange for the town of Debaltseve. The offer was rapidly declined by the Kiev military. One day after the truce had been enabled, the agreement is already on the verge of collapsing.
In spite of the recent negotiations that took place at Minsk between the leaders of Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine and the ceasefire that was agreed upon, in the Ukrainian region of Debaltseve, armed conflicts haven’t stopped. Debaltseve is an important town, a railway junction held by the government and sought for permanent occupation by the pro-Russian rebels. At this point, Ukrainian troops in that region are surrounded by the enemy.
It is believed that more than 7,000 soldiers are trapped in the Ukrainian city which has been under rebel occupation since last week.
Vladislav Seleznyov, spokesperson for the Ukrainian military said that it shouldn’t be about military troops leaving the city but about the rebels, as the town is part of the territory placed under Ukrainian control as a result of the Minsk agreement.
Another spokesperson, Andriy Lysenko added that the condition of withdrawing heavy artillery could not be exerted if the rebels did not fulfill the first point of the Minsk agreement – the ceasefire.
Commander Eduard Basurin addressed the rebels saying that it is recommended “the Ukrainian soldiers in Debaltseve stay alive”. He continued by saying that this was not the only condition and that the shooting needed to stop immediately as there was never the option of taking prisoners.
On Sunday Feb. 15, the European Organization for Security and Cooperation reported that their agents were not allowed to enter Debaltseve as rebels stated that the ceasefire negotiated during the Minsk meeting did not apply to this strategic region which is currently under intense mortar bombing.
Reporters near the battle field stated that six tanks together with artillery carriers and fighters were seen in the woods close to Vuhlehirsk, a city six miles west of Debaltseve.
Washington officials reported that the rebel mission is augmented by Russian armed forces. Moscow denied any implications.
Image Source: BBC News