President Petro Poroshenko says Ukraine has withdrawn most of its military forces from the eastern flashpoint town of Debaltseve after Russia-backed separatists, who reportedly took hundreds of soldiers captive, seized control of the key railway junction, dealing yet another crushing blow to Kiev.
Poroshenko, who had denied claims by Russia-backed rebels for days that the Ukrainians were encircled, said the troops had pulled out of Debaltseve with weapons and ammunition.
“This morning the Ukrainian armed forces together with the National Guard completed an operation for a planned and organized withdrawal from Debaltseve. As of now we can say that 80 percent of our units have left,” Poroshenko, donning military fatigues, said in a televised address at a Kiev airport before traveling to eastern Ukraine to “shake the hands” of the soldiers pulling out.
“Debaltseve was under our control, it was never encircled. Our troops and formations have left in an organized and planned manner,” Poroshenko added.