World

Debaltseve in Rubble as Pro-Russian Rebels Take Control

Ukraine
A fighter with the separatist Donetsk People's Republic army sits in front of a sign reading "Ukrainian over all" at a checkpoint in Debaltseve on February 20, 2015. Baz Ratner/Reuters

During what was supposed to be a ceasefire, pro-Russian rebels have taken control of Debaltseve, a town in eastern Ukraine, from Ukrainian soldiers. As one separatist said to a Reuters reporter on Friday: “What ceasefire?”

The rebels triumphed after the Ukrainian military evacuated because their soldiers were honoring the terms of the ceasefire and not using force. The separatist groups Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic, meanwhile, used snipers, small arms and grenades to push the Ukrainian forces out of Debaltseve. 

Debaltseve A military boot is seen at the road near Debaltseve, February 17, 2015. Ukrainian troops were forced to flee Debaltseve as the truce between Russia and Ukraine crumbled. Gleb Garanich/Reuters

Afterward, the separatists searched for deserted ammunition and weapons amid the rubble. 

Debaltseve Fighters with the separatist self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic army look for ammunition in a destroyed Ukrainian army compound in the city of Debaltseve. Baz Ratner/Reuters

“These are ours now, and we'll use them against [Ukrainian forces] themselves. We have to expand," a rebel told Reuters while searching for ammunition with his battalion.

According to the BBC, mines have been placed in open fields and the separatists have been attempting to get rid of them without suffering casualties.

For civilians living in Debaltseve, the fighting has blocked food deliveries and resulted in the loss of heat and electricity. “We’re waiting. They should bring dry meals in blue packaging since the pasta is already finishing,” a teacher who was waiting in line for food told Reuters

Debaltseve A man stands in the rubble of a building damaged by fighting in Debaltseve. Baz Ratner/Reuters

Even though the rebels have taken hold of Debaltseve and the ceasefire is still in place, at least on paper, fighting continues. Locals reported hearing sounds of fighting and gunfire at night, though some are now saying they feel safe to leave their homes during daylight. “Everything is broken,” a local told BBC, surveying the damage to his home. 

Debaltseve The damaged window of a home in Debaltseve. Pro-Russian forces used grenades, small arms and snipers to attack the Ukrainian military. Baz Ratner/Reuters

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