The Witness - Wheels - - NEWS -

ARTEMIVSK — Af­ter weeks of fierce, re­lent­less fight­ing, the em­bat­tled rail hub of De­balt­seve fell to rebel forces yes­ter­day in eastern Ukraine. The Ukrainian pres­i­dent con­firmed that he had or­dered troops to pull out and the Rus­si­abacked sep­a­ratists re­ported tak­ing hun­dreds of sol­diers cap­tive.

As­so­ci­ated Press re­porters saw sev­eral dozen Ukrainian troops re­treat­ing with their weapons from De­balt­seve yes­ter­day morn­ing, cov­ered in dirt and look­ing ex­hausted. One sol­dier spoke of heavy gov­ern­ment losses, while an­other said they had not been able to get food for days be­cause of the rebel shelling.

By yes­ter­day morn­ing, the army had with­drawn 80% of its troops from the town and two more col­umns had yet to leave, Ukraine’s Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko said. He de­nied claims by the rebels that the Ukraini­ans were sur­rounded and said the troops were leav­ing De­balt­seve with their weapons and ammunition.

Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin, on a visit to Bu­dapest on Tues­day, called on Kiev to ad­mit de­feat in the con­tested town, say­ing “the only choice” of the Ukrainian troops was to “leave be­hind weaponry, lay down arms and sur­ren­der”.

Rus­sia has de­nied sup­ply­ing the sep­a­ratists with troops and weapons, a claim scoffed at by West­ern na­tions and Ukraine, who point to what they say are Nato satel­lite pic­tures of Rus­sian weapons in eastern Ukraine.

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