Kiev: As pro-Russian rebels claimed to have taken control of embattled Ukrainian town of Debaltseve, Ukrainian troops reportedly began to pull out of the strategic town that is mired in severe clashes despite a ceasefire that came into effect on Sunday.
Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko said that the government forces were withdrawing in an "organised" manner from Debaltseve, the strategic town that lies on railway line linking two rebel strongholds,Donetsk and Luhansk, on Wednesday morning, said reports.
He added that 80% troops had already withdrawn.
National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine tweeted that the town was besieged by the pro-Russian rebels and they have been “shelling #Debaltseve by militants with “Grad” multiple rocket launchers” and consider it to be an “inner territory” of the so-called “DPR” (Donetsk People's Republic).
Ukrainian Armed Forces conduct organized retreat from #Debaltseve. 80% of UA troops withdrawn already.
— NSDC of Ukraine (@NSDC_ua) February 18, 2015
Militants consider #Debaltseve to be an “inner territory” of the so-called “DPR”
— NSDC of Ukraine (@NSDC_ua) February 17, 2015
Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that rebels had surrounded Ukrainian forces and forced them to retreat.
Lavrov claimed that the capture of the town didn't violate the ceasefire as Debaltseve was part of the rebel-held area at the time the peace deal was signed, the BBC reported.
Meanwhile, NATO has called on Russsia to withdraw all troops from Debaltseve
The capturing of the key Ukrainian town by the rebel comes even as a ceasefire came into effect on Sunday after marathon four way talks at Minsk, brokered by France and Germany.
Also the UN Security Council yesterday voted unanimously to approve the ceasefire deal, however Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Ukrainian troops there to surrender.
Putin, on a visit to Hungary, said, "I hope that the Ukrainian authorities are not going to prevent the Ukrainian soldiers from laying down their weapons."
The US has meanwhile talked tough and chided Russia over the ceasefire violation and to “stop pretending” that it had no role to play in arming the rebels.
Reprimanding Russia squarely at the UNSC, US ambassador Samantha Power said: "Stop arming the separatists. Stop sending hundreds of heavy weapons across the border in addition to your troops. Stop pretending you are not doing what you are doing".