KIEV, February 18. /TASS/. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has said a planned withdrawal of Ukraine’s troops was launched on Wednesday morning. He flew to the military operation zone in Ukraine’s east, according to Ukrainian media reports.
However, representatives of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) said that Ukrainian troops, surrounded by militias in the area of Debaltsevo, have been surrendering arms en masse to the people’s militia fighters.
"The troop’s planned withdrawal with the equipment has started today, 80% of Ukrainian military with their equipment have already been withdrawn from the city," said the Ukrainian head of state.
"The withdrawal testifies to the fact that there was no ‘Debaltsevo mousetrap’ of any kind," the Ukrainian president is quoted by media as saying at Borispol airport. "I’ve left for the front, will return by the evening to attend the Ukrainian Security Council meeting planned for the evening," the Ukrainian president said.
The situation in the Debaltsevo area is very tense. "Mass surrendering of weapons by the Ukrainian security forces is underway in Debaltsevo," DPR head’s chief of staff Maxim Leshchenko said on Wednesday. "There are hundreds of them [surrendering arms]," he added.
On Tuesday, February 17, DPR defense ministry spokesman Eduard Basurin told reporters that some 5,000 Kiev troops were surrounded by militias near Debaltsevo. According to him, DPR authorities intended to hand over the surrendered Ukrainian soldiers to their families.