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Pro-Russia forces say pushed Ukraine army out of Debaltseve

17 February 2015 16:48

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Pro-Russia forces say they have pushed Ukraine’s army out of the eastern hotbed city of Debaltseve as a ceasefire deadline for the withdrawal of heavy weaponry draws closer.

Fighting raged on Tuesday in Debaltseve, with pro-Russia forces storming the government-held positions in the city. A statement later in the day on the self-proclaimed Donetsk News Agency claimed that pro-Russians have captured most parts of the city.

Pro-Russia forces and Kiev troops have been battling for weeks over Debaltseve, which connects Donetsk and Lugansk, strongholds of the pro-Russians in eastern Ukraine. The control over the city remains ambiguous under a truce deal signed in the Belarusian capital of Minsk on February 10 with the warring sides both claiming Debaltseve on their line.

Ukrainian military spokesman, Andriy Lysenko (pictured above), has accused the fighters of violating the ceasefire, saying that five government troops have been killed over the past 24 hours in attacks by the pro-Russians. Lysenko said the Kiev government’s decision to withdraw its heavy weaponry from the frontline would depend on the other side’s way of observing the Minsk deal.

According to the pact, which was agreed by leaders of Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany, the two sides are expected to pull out their weapons later on Tuesday but on the condition that they stop fighting.

Both sides claim that the condition has yet to be fulfilled, putting the fragile truce deal at risk of unraveling.

Nearly 5,700 people have been killed and close to a million have been displaced since the armed conflict began in east Ukraine in April 2014.

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