Ukrainian servicemen near Debaltseve

President Poroshenko said on Wednesday that Ukrainian forces were withdrawing from the embattled town of Debaltseve, a strategically important transportation hub where intense fighting has raged in recent days despite a cease-fire agreement signed last week.

Mr. Poroshenko sought to cast the retreat in a positive light, but it was clearly a devastating defeat at the hands of Russian-backed separatists.

Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for the Ukrainian national security and defense council, confirmed the retreat at a briefing in Kiev, the capital, on Wednesday afternoon, and said that the pullout was nearly completed.

At a regular government news conference, Steffen Seibert, Chancellor Merkel’s spokesman, said Europe was prepared to support a new round of sanctions against Russia if the situation in Ukraine continued to deteriorate.

Source :