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Donetsk militias capture 700 Ukrainian troopers, Ukraine official says

September 01, 2014, 16:46 UTC+3 KIEV

Vladimir Ruban, the head of Ukraine’s prisoner exchange center, described the situation near Illovaisk as a “disaster”

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KIEV, September 01. /ITAR-TASS/. Militias in Ukraine’s embattled Donetsk region have captured about 700 Ukrainian troopers, 80% near Illovaisk, in recent days, Vladimir Ruban, a Ukrainian official in charge of prisoner exchanges, told a news conference on Monday.

Several Ukrainian army battalions have been surrounded by militia forces near the east Ukrainian town of Illovaisk as the militias in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic have stepped up an operation to force the Ukrainian army to retreat from its strongholds near big cities in eastern Ukraine.

“In military terms, it is clear that the militias are trying to do a very simple thing - they are pressing the (Ukraine) army from strongholds and positions from where the troopers can shell peaceful cities, hospitals, Orthodox churches and civilian infrastructure causing huge civilian casualties,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said last Friday, explaining that if Kiev and its patrons were unwilling to agree to a ceasefire without any preconditions, the only way to save the lives of peaceful civilians was to beat the Ukrainian troops out of their positions disabling them to shell cities and other populated localities in eastern Ukraine.

Vladimir Ruban, the head of Ukraine’s prisoner exchange center, described the situation near Illovaisk as a “disaster”. However, he refused to give any further details until all the captured servicemen were released.

Andrei Lysenko, a spokesperson for the Ukraine National Security and Defense Council, also refused to give any comments.

“The situation in Illovaisk is extremely difficult. No details will be announced until all the servicemen are taken out of the encirclement,” Lysenko told journalists earlier on Monday, adding Ukrainian authorities were doing everything to release them from captivity.

He also promised to punish everybody who was responsible for the current situation.

Militia fighters of Ukraine’s embattled southeast have handed 330 prisoners of war over to the Ukrainian side, the Novorossia news agency of the self-proclaimed federative union state of Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics reported on Monday.

It also said 72 wounded and 35 killed combatants had been returned. According to the Donetsk People’s Republic, 13 military from the 80th aeromobile regiment were taken prisoner in fights for the airport of Luhansk. According to militia, Ukrainian military were using banned by international conventions fragmentation weapons near the airport.

The news agency said a Smerch multiple launch rocket system, six howitzers and an ammunition depot had been destroyed in artillery shelling of law enforcers’ positions in eastern Ukraine, and up to 30 servicemen had been killed.

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