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Russia's Putin urges rebels to open 'corridor' for trapped Ukraine troops to retreat

Published on Aug 29, 2014 3:07 PM
 Pro-Russian separatists walk at a destroyed war memorial on Savur-Mohyla, a hill east of the city of Donetsk on Aug 28, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

MOSCOW (AFP) - Russian President Vladimir Putin called on pro-Moscow separatists in Ukraine on Friday to open a "humanitarian corridor" to allow besieged Ukrainian troops to retreat.

"I call on the rebel forces to open a humanitarian corridor for the Ukrainian troops who are surrounded, so as to avoid unnecessary casualties and to give them the opportunity to withdraw from the zone of operations," Mr Putin said in a statement issued after midnight on Thursday.

Encircled Ukrainian fighters have been engaged in a desperate fight for survival in the town Ilovaysk for over a week as pro-Russian rebels, which had been on the retreat, staged a swift counter-offensive.

Mr Putin addressed the separatists directly as defenders of "Novorossiya", or New Russia, a term first attributed to the tsars as they sought to expand their holdings. He praised them for achieving considerable successes in cutting off Kiev's military operation that posed a deadly threat to the population of the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine, where most of the fighting has occurred.

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