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MOSCOW, February 17. /TASS/. The city of Debaltsevo in the Donetsk Region will soon, maybe even today, be under control of the militias of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR), DPR Defense Minister Vladimir Kononov said Tuesday.
"Within the next few days, maybe, even today, Debaltsevo will be placed under control of the DPR and LPR army," Kononov said.
He said that "for the time being, snipers are shooting and subversive and reconnaissance brigades are working here."
"Simultaneously two armies - those of the DPR and LPR - are fighting in Debaltsevo, as this is a border territory between two former regions. Two armies have achieved understanding," the LifeNews TV channel quoted Kononov as saying.
The DPR’s Defense Ministry said on Tuesday citing the latest data that militias are control the larger part of the town of Debaltsevo, .
"According to the latest data, the larger part of Debaltsevo is under our control while Ukraine’s military is controlling only the western part of the town," the Donetsk news agency quoted the DPR Defense Ministry’s statement.
"We have gained control of the territory because Ukrainian troops are actively and voluntarily surrendering and leaving their positions," the DPR’s Defense Ministry said.
It was reported that at least 20 Ukrainian servicemen have voluntarily surrendered to militias. "We have information that 20 troops have rendered themselves prisoners of war. These are soldiers and a sergeant of Ukraine’s Armed Forces," the Donetsk news agency quoted Igor Plotnitsky, the leader of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People's Republic.
The troops were not wounded during the armed actions and surrendered voluntarily.
A large group of Ukrainian troops is believed to have been encircled for nearly a month in the pocket around Debaltsevo. The leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk people’s republic, Alexander Zakharchenko, said at least 5,000 Kiev troops have been trapped.
The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) has not managed to reach Debaltsevo and now talks are ongoing with the center for ceasefire control and coordination in Soledar, in the Donetsk region, the SMM chief monitor said on Tuesday.
Michael Bociurkiw said the mission is due to prepare a report by late Tuesday and waits for all the sides to confirm the full ceasefire. Some 20 OSCE patrols are currently in the safe zone on the territory of the Lugansk and Donetsk regions, he said.
Bociurkiw also said it is yet unknown when the meeting in Soledar is expected to end.