“We have finished cleansing the Debaltseve area from illegally armed formations. Unfortunately, the Ukrainian authorities didn’t accept the words of wisdom to lay down weapons. Between 3,000 and 3,500 Ukrainian military personnel were killed during the surrounding [of Debaltseve],” Zakharchenko was quoted as saying by the Donetsk Information Center.
He added that Kiev could collect the bodies of its soldiers.
“We have invited the relatives and mothers of the Ukrainian military to [Debaltseve] to collect their soldiers,” he said.
Pushilin blamed their deaths on the ignorance of the Ukrainian government, saying militias had sought to negotiate a deal with Kiev "to save the lives of thousands of Ukrainian soldiers" encircled near Debaltsevo, "but Kiev did everything possible to brush this off by saying that the situation was under control."
This came after Donetsk militias announced on Wednesday that they had completely encircled the town, with DPR's deputy militia commander Eduard Basurin saying that groups of Ukrainian troops were still scattered around the area.