Rebels, Ukrainian troops agree to open humanitarian corridor

Author : Mircea Birca | Friday, February 6, 2015
Posted in category Eurasia, Eurasia News
Comments Off on Rebels, Ukrainian troops agree to open humanitarian corridor

Pro-Russia rebels and the Ukrainian authorities agreed on Friday on a humanitarian corridor to evacuate civilians from the epicentre of fighting in eastern Ukraine, rebel and government officials said, as German and French leaders prepared to bring their peace plan to Moscow.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande are set to hold talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin a day after discussing their proposals with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.

The diplomatic blitz comes amid fierce fighting that prompted Washington to consider providing the beleaguered Ukrainian military with lethal weapons, in turn sparking European fears of even wider hostilities.

Rebel leaders said they reached agreement with Ukrainian authorities to allow the evacuation of civilians from Debaltseve, a key railway hub that has become the main target of a rebel offensive because of its strategic location. It wasn’t immediately clear where the evacuees would go.

The cease-fire around Debaltseve held on Friday as a convoy of several dozen buses drove from nearby Vuhelhirsk toward Debaltseve, where a shrinking population has been trapped in cross-fire and left without power, heating and running water for almost two weeks.

Zorian Shkiryak, an adviser to the Ukrainian interior minister, said on Facebook that “the green corridor has been confirmed.” Eduard Basurin, a rebel spokesman in Donetsk, said about 1,000 civilians were expected to be evacuated on Friday.

The boom of heavy artillery was heard at a distance, but there was no sign of fighting nearby.

The hostilities in eastern Ukraine between Russia-backed separatist rebels and Ukrainian forces has intensified sharply over the past two weeks. Russia vehemently denies that it is backing the insurgency with troops and weapons, but U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry rejected that denial on Thursday’s visit to Kiev.

Mr. Kerry said President Barack Obama “is reviewing all his options; among those options obviously is the possibility of providing defensive systems to Ukraine”.

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