Ukraine Live Day 348: Russian-Backed Forces Close In On Debaltsevo As Civilians Evacuate

January 31, 2015

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Some Civilians Flee As Others Are Trapped in Debaltsevo

We’ve been reporting the siege of Debaltsevo all week, where Ukraine’s forces are surrounded on three sides and the Russian-supported forces continue to gain ground. Civilians in the town are either trapped, trying to flee, or are resigned to the fact that they are stuck in a warzone.

Associated Press reports on the efforts to evacuate the residents of the city:

“Six buses shuttle (refugees) from there and they constantly come under fire,” Yatsenyuk said in comments carried by his press office. “As soon as they (the rebels) see that we are evacuating the people, they open fire.”

Yatsenyuk has asked the defense ministry to help secure the evacuation and added that none of the refugees has been injured.

Vyacheslav Abroskin, head of police for the Donetsk region, said 12 people had been killed by shelling in Debaltseve, which hosts a strategic railway hub. He did not specify over what period the deaths had taken place.

With the government apparently unable to handle all the people wishing to leave, volunteer groups are trying to fill the gap.

“We are evacuating people from this hotspot, so they don’t have to deal with what is going on, because this is not their war after all. This has nothing to do with them,” said Andrei Vasilyev, a worker with a charitable organization based in the eastern city of Kharkiv.

Nearby, in Uglegorsk (Vuhlehirsk), west of Debaltsevo, a battle has been raging for more than two days. Yesterday we reported that separatists, and perhaps heavy Russian tanks and other equipment, had won the majority of the town. Now there are reports that Ukrainian forces have pulled out of the town:

James Miller