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Ukraine troops withdrawing from embattled Debaltseve: President

Ukraine has pulled most of its troops out of Debaltseve, the epicentre of recent fighting in war-torn eastern Ukraine, the president confirmed on Wednesday.

The Russia-backed separatists reported taking hundreds of soldiers captive as they continued their onslaught on the strategic railroad junction.

Associated Press reporters saw several dozen Ukrainian troops retreating with their weapons from Debaltseve today morning, covered in dirt and looking exhausted. Some were driving to the nearby town of Artemivsk in trucks while several others, unshaven and visibly upset, were on foot. One soldier spoke of heavy government losses, while another said they had not been able to get food for days because of the rebel shelling. “We’re very happy to be here,” the hungry soldier told the AP.
“We were praying all the time and already said goodbye to our lives a hundred times.”

The army has withdrawn out 80 per cent of its troops from the town and two more columns have yet to leave, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said on Wednesday. He denied claims by the rebels that the Ukrainians were surrounded and said the troops were leaving Debaltseve with their weapons and ammunition.

“Debaltseve was under our control, it was never encircled. Our troops and formations have left in an organised and planned manner,” he said in televised comments. He spoke at a Kiev airport as he travelled to eastern Ukraine to “shake the hands” of the soldiers who were pulled out of Debaltseve.
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