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KIEV, Ukraine — Some pro-government forces began on Wednesday to pull out of the rebel-besieged east Ukrainian town of Debaltseve, commanders of the paramilitary units said.
"The withdrawal of forces from Debaltseve is taking place in a planned and organized way," said Semen Semenchenko, who heads the Donbass pro-Kiev paramilitary battalion. "The enemy is trying to cut the roads and prevent the exit of the troops."
Another pro-government paramilitary leader, Mykola Kolesnyk, said in a telephone interview on 112 television channel: "We have pulled out. We have saved people's lives."
But he said not all troops were pulling out. "We are talking only about units which are surrounded in populated areas in and around the town," added Kolesnyk, who heads the Krivbas battalion.
Separatist forces, who the pro-Western government in Kiev say are supported and armed by Russia, fought their way into the key railway junction on Tuesday despite a cease-fire which came into effect on Sunday but has been under pressure from the start.
The pro-Moscow rebels say the cease-fire, negotiated by Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France at a summit in Belarus late last week, does not apply to Debaltseve, a strategic transport hub which links the two rebel-controlled regions of eastern Ukraine.
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