Ukrainian Troops Retreat From Besieged Debaltseve

Ukrainian Troops Retreat From Besieged DebaltseveUkrainian Troops Retreat From Besieged Debaltseve

The Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said on Wednesday his forces are making an “organized” withdrawal from the embattled town of Debaltseve.

Poroshenko said before flying to the town of Debaltseve that more than 80 percent of his troops in the rail hub had already left following a heavy bombardment and street-by-street fighting despite the truce that took effect on Sunday.

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Ukrainian forces had been encircled and were forced to battle their way out. “I’m reckoning that common sense will prevail,” said Lavrov as he urged the separatists to provide troops who surrendered with food and clothes, BBC said in a report.

Lavrov told reporters that the rebel attack in Debaltseve did not violate the ceasefire agreement, because the town was part of the rebel-held area at the time the peace deal was signed.

Eyewitnesses said dozens of tanks and columns of weary Ukrainian troops were retreating from Debaltseve on Wednesday.

“This morning the Ukrainian armed forces together with the National Guard completed an operation for a planned and organized withdrawal from Debaltseve,” the Ukrainian leader said in a statement on Wednesday. “We are expecting another two columns (to leave).”

The withdrawal comes after Russian President Vladimir Putin urged Ukraine’s troops in Debaltseve to surrender.

A peace deal reached at all-night talks in the Belarusian capital Minsk last week had all but unraveled, with both sides failing to begin pulling back heavy guns as required after the rebels refused to halt their advance.

Putin said Kiev should allow its soldiers to surrender to the advancing rebels. “I hope that the responsible figures in the Ukrainian leadership will not hinder soldiers in the Ukrainian army from putting down their weapons,” Putin said.

“Our mission is to save the lives of those caught in the cauldron, and to make sure that the situation does not inflame relations between Kiev and the rebels further,” Putin said.

  West Arming Kiev

Putin said that Ukrainian forces are being armed by western allies, according to Moscow’s information, but insisted he was “optimistic” about implementing the Minsk agreement, noting that the intensity of fighting has declined.

“According to our data, weapons are already being supplied [to Kiev],” the Russian leader said at a press conference following his meeting with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. “This is not surprising. I am convinced that whoever is supplying the weapons, the number of victims may grow, but the outcome will not change.”

He stressed that vast majority of soldiers serving in the Ukrainian army have no motivation to participate in an internecine conflict away from home, while the Donbass militia “have every reason to defend their families.”

  Anti-Russia Sanctions

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Tuesday announced fresh economic sanctions and travel bans against 37 Russian and Ukrainian individuals, and economic sanctions against 17 Russian and Ukrainian entities, including the oil giant Rosneft.

“In coordination with our EU and US partners, Canada is once again intensifying its response to the situation [in southeastern Ukraine] by announcing further sanctions against Russian and Ukrainian individuals and entities,” Harper said Tuesday as quoted in a statement released on his official website.

According to the statement, the new restrictive measures target, among others, Director General of the Rossiya Segodnya International Information Agency Dmitry Kiselev, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov and deputy head of the Russian Armed Forced general staff Andrei Kartapolov.

Antonov and Kartapolov were included in the list of individuals sanctioned over their alleged involvement in the destabilization of Ukraine, released by the European Union on Monday.

Meanwhile, the prosecutor general’s office in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) on Wednesday launched a criminal case against Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko and other top officials for waging a war in eastern Ukraine, Donetsk News Agency (DAN) said.

The charges include “planning, preparations, incitement and the launch of an aggressive war by Ukrainian state officials,” the agency cited the ruling on the opening of the criminal case.

Aside from Poroshenko, charges have been filed against Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and Ukrainian national security and defense council’s secretary Oleksandr Turchynov.