In a conflict that has killed more than 5,000 people, a war of words – and accusations – is also raging in eastern Ukraine. Around the town of Debaltseve, northeast of separatist-held Donetsk, pro-Russian rebels claim that Ukrainian government forces are deliberately targeting civilians rather than separatist bases. “Our positions are very well-defended,” said one unidentified rebel. “We try to protect ourselves so they can’t do anything to us. That’s why they shell civilian areas.”Kyiv insists its enemies are the separatists – enemies with whom it exchanges prisoners.
EuroNews correspondent Sergio Cantone followed one handover in the battle-scarred east, in which an injured rebel was driven into no-man’s land by the Ukrainian forces holding him and exchanged for a government soldier.
When asked about the behaviour of his rebel captors, the Ukrainian soldier told Cantone and other journalists that his treatment was “okay”.
“They stitched up my arm and head,” he said.
“The most important thing for us is the implementation of the Minsk agreement,” said Yury Tandit of the Ukrainian Security Services, referring to last year’s ceasefire deal.
“We will do everything to get out as many people as possible.”
Many captives of Ukraine’s conflict remain to be freed, just as many civilians long for peace – amid a truce that exists in name only.
with reporting by euronews correspondent in Ukraine, Sergio Cantone.