By the editors, New Cold War.org, Feb. 18, 2015
CBC News in Canada and other mainstram news outlets are reporting the fall of the town of Debaltseve to self-defense forces of Donetsk and Luhansk. Fighting is continuing in the large ‘pocket’ of land surrounding the town, which is surrounded by self-defense forces, as some Ukraine army units as well as rightist militia batallions try to escape back to Ukraine with their weaponry.
RT.com has an extensive news report on the fall of Debaltseve and the surrender of the Ukrainian army units there. It is a major military setback for Ukraine because of the large numbers of troops captured or surrendered and the loss of so much equipment.
The loss is made much worse for the government in Kyiv because for weeks it has been denying the looming disaster. It has failed to safeguard its troops; instead, it has been living in a dream world that it could achieve a military solution to the surrounding of the Debaltseve pocket effected last week by self-defense forces. The government did nothing at the ceasefire talks last week in Minsk to protect the surrounded army, assuming that it would achieve a miracle military breakthrough and retreat in the days before the ceasefire would take effect.
The pretension by the Kyiv government is ongoing. Today, President Poroshenko announced to Ukraine that the army in Debaltseve is staging an orderly withdrawal along with its equipment.
Prime Minister Alexander Zakharchenko of the Donetsk Peoples Republic has called the military clash surrounding Debaltseve “our Stalingrad”. He has been hammering home a message to Ukrainian soldiers and to the population of Ukraine: ‘President Poroshenko and his government abandoned and betrayed you.’ (See here on Fort Russ website a translation of comments to a press conference on Feb. 13.)
The large pocket of land around Debaltseve has been surrounded by self-defense forces for the better part of a week. There are thousands of regular army soldiers and members of rightist battalions there, along with their equiment. The governments of the peoples republics of Donetsk and Luhansk say that the ceasefire line they are observing is the one drawn by their forces when they sealed off the Debaltseve pocket. In accordance with the agreement, Ukraine forces and militias must withdraw from the pocket. They have been assured safe passage and, indeed, hundreds have surrendered. But they cannot take their weaponry with them.
There is conflict between the conscript soldiers of the army choosing to surrender and the extremist battalions attempting to fight on, that is, to escape back to Ukraine with their weapons.
A Russian news outlet traveled to Debaltseve on Feb. 17 and interviewed Ukrainian soldiers who have surrendered. At the 1’10” mark, the deputy head of a Luhansk self-defense force unit tells the surrendering soldiers, “Everyone of you will be given the possibility to return home. We will act towards you with honor and respect. First, we’ll feed you and provide washing and clothing. As a commissar of the Luhansk army, I guarantee every one of you a respectful attitude and eventual freedom.” Watch the video report here:
The fall of Debaltseve mirrors an earlier, disastrous military defeat suffered byUkraine last August at the town of Ilovaysk, south of Donetsk city. That defeat and others like it at the time led to the ceasefire agreement at Minsk, Belarus on September 5, 2014. The Minsk-2 ceasefire agreement was signed on February 11, 2015 in the shadow of the forthcoming fall of Debaltseve. It came into effect at midnight on Saturday, Feb. 14 and it has been holding along the demarcation line.
On February 16, Prime Minister Zakharchenko received a leg injury from shrapnel [correction, a gunshot wound] while touring the Debaltseve town and area. He is recovering in hospital and was in good spirits in a video report.
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