A destroyed tank near Sergey Prokofiev International Airport in Donetsk, December 2014. (Pravda DNR)

Donetsk. Up to 10,000 Ukrainian troops could find themselves encircled by Donetsk rebels, according to the authorities of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic.

Eduard Basurin, deputy commander of the republic’s Ministry of Defence Corps, said on Wednesday that the rebel push around the town of Debaltseve could result in the encircelement of thousands of pro-Kiev troops. “If we cut off the salient, some 10,000 Ukrainian soldiers will be encircled”, Basurin said at a briefing.

DPR fighters also repulsed Ukrainian attacks against the settlements of Lozovoe and Gorlivka Malaya and heights along the entire front line around Debaltseve. According to Basurin, Ukrainian forces have been Donetsk for days using rocket artillery.

Earlier today, the press service of the Ukrainian president indirectly confirmed that government troops around Debaltseve are largely on the defensive, saying they are “holding the defence and protecting certain frontiers”. An Ukrainian volunteer denied that an encirclement could happen, although he admitted that government forces there lacked drones, artillery rangefinders, meteorological stations and night vision devices.

The conflict in eastern Ukraine has so far claimed the lives of 5,000 people according to the UN. Fighting escalated anew in early January with the collapse of a ceasefire that was occasionally breached by both sides.

(RIA Novosti, Unian)

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