Hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers pulled out of Debaltseve. Escaped overnight on foot, in vehicles pic.twitter.com/hkdAYzH7ro— James Marson (@marson_jr) February 18, 2015
Ukraine has pulled most of its troops out of Debaltseve, president Petro Poroshenko has said.
Mr Poroshenko said on his official Twitter account that the Ukrainian army has withdrawn 80% of its troops and two more columns have yet to leave town.
Mr Poroshenko denied claims by the Russia-backed rebels that the Ukrainians were encircled.
He says the troops are leaving Debaltseve with weapons and ammunition.
Dozens of troops were seen retreating and Russia-backed separatists reported taking hundreds of soldiers captive as they continued their onslaught on the strategic railroad junction in eastern Ukraine.
"Debaltseve was under our control, it was never encircled. Our troops and formations have left in an organised and planned manner," said Mr Poroshenko.
He spoke at a Kiev airport as he travelled to eastern Ukraine to "shake hands" of the soldiers who were pulled out of Debaltseve.
Rebel spokesman Eduard Basurin said hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers had surrendered in Debaltseve.
Russian state-owned television showed images of several dozen Ukrainian troops being escorted along a village road by the rebels.