Ukraine Rebel Leader Says Government Forces Surrounded

A pro-Russian separatist leader says Ukrainian troops near a Donetsk region town are surrounded and should surrender their weapons or face death.

Russian state news agency RIA Novosti has quoted Aleksandr Zakharchenko as saying rebel forces have surrounded Ukrainian units near Debaltseve, a flashpoint in the recent escalation of a conflict that has killed more than 5,100 people in eastern Ukraine since April.

Zakharchenko reportedly said on January 30 that the Ukrainian troops’ lives would be spared if they handed over their weapons.

The demand comes amid expectations of a new round of talks between representatives of the rebels, Ukraine, Russia, and the OSCE on January 30 in the Belarusian capital, Minsk.

The rebels have made gains recently in what the United States has called a ‘Russian-backed offensive’ that violates the terms of an agreement on a cease-fire and steps toward peace signed in Minsk in September.

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