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MOSCOW, February 18. /TASS/. The area of the city of Debaltsevo where the militias of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk republics have trapped several thousand Ukrainian troops may upset the February 12 Minsk agreements to enforce a ceasefire starting from last Sunday’s midnight and the pullback of heavy armaments away from the entire line of engagement, polled experts told TASS.
Debaltsevo is a city 70 kilometers away from Donetsk in the east of Ukraine and a major railway hub.
"Fierce fighting for control of this locality is underway not because it is one of the country’s largest transport junctions. It has been greatly damaged and the issue of cargo traffic between the warring factions is utterly irrelevant at the moment. Just recently the Debaltsevo area was a Kiev-controlled bulge protruding eastwards well into the militias-held territory. Several days ago the forces of the Donetsk and Luhansk republics managed to seal it off from the territory under the Ukrainian authorities’ control. Kiev still regards it as a stronghold for launching further offensives against the Donetsk and Luhansk forces and for that reason it has refused to issue orders to the trapped troops to lay down arms and surrender to the militias," the deputy director of the Institute of Political and Military Analysis, Aleksandr Khramchikhin, told TASS.
"Wars end when either conflicting party is unable to go on fighting. In Debaltsevo I can see no other solution than military. It can be either the Ukrainian troops’ capitulation, something that has already happened in the area of the ruined Donetsk airport, or a new offensive by the Ukrainian army and the national guards," the experts forecasts.
"The Ukrainian army had launched the operation for regaining control of Debaltsevo long before the Minsk summit. Its aim was to draw all militia forces to one area, thereby forcing them to vacate other sections of the frontline, and to trap Donetsk and Luhansk forces in the end. But Kiev’s offensive failed, because the militias managed to cut the main road connecting major localities, leaving the Ukrainian forces no chance to retreat. On Tuesday, up to one hundred Ukrainian military agreed to surrender to the militias. Since the morning of Wednesday the Ukrainian forces have been retreating northwards, across roadless areas exposed to cross-fire," the president of the Research, Analysis and Forecasting Centre, Lieutenant-General Viktor Samoilov, told TASS.
"Let’s call a spade a spade. Minutes after the summit in Minsk Putin said that by virtue of the common logic those trapped near Debaltsevo would be trying to break out, and the Ukrainian forces, to drive a corridor from the outside, while the militias would be doing their utmost to keep the encircled forces tightly sealed. That’s precisely what has been happening. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has refused to issue orders to the Ukrainian military in Debaltsevo to lay down arms. Assault brigades and commando forces, in other words, the most professional forces, have been moved in, while most of the militias’ units are manned by coalminers and tractor drivers."
"Debaltsevo may prove a stumbling block in the way of the Minsk Accords for a while and even upset their implementation altogether," Samoilov said.
"What is it the Ukrainian president wishes to achieve? Apparently, he will be trying to use Western assistance to raze Donbas to the ground first only to demand indemnities from Russia for its restoration. Kiev has no intention of ending the hostilities. It has been doing its utmost to drag Russia into combat operations. The armed conflict will be raging on," Samoilov believes.
"The sole way out of the situation is the one the Donetsk and Luhansk militias have offered to the trapped Ukrainian military - to lay down arms and surrender," State Duma member Vyacheslav Nikonov has told TASS. "In this way the militias hope to save their opponents’ lives and let them reunite with their families. The rival factions must enter into negotiations to ensure further hostilities at Debaltsevo should not upset the Minsk Accords."
"As far as I know, the militias’ delegates have already had one meeting with the Ukrainian military command. It is pretty clear that Debaltsevo’s surrender would be disadvantageous to Kiev politically, but the realities have to be taken as they are. It is utterly wrong to try to fool Ukrainian society with TV footage showing what looks like the Ukrainian army’s ostensibly victorious blitz."
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