As many as 3,500 Ukrainians died at Debaltsevo subject logo: DONBASWAR
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By Chris Covert

President of the Donetsk republic, Aleksandr Zakharchenko let slip to reporters at a news conference on Monday that as many as 3,500 Ukrainians were killed in the Debaltsevo operation.

Donetsk Lt. Colonel Eduard Basurin said last weekend that Donetsk officially will cease the practice of reporting on Ukrainian killed in action, at the request of the Ukrainian general staff in Kiev.

But commanders who were there still speak of a massive bloodletting at the hands of rebels in Debaltsevo.

At the start of the operation in early February, it was reported by rebel media that between 6,000 and 8,000 Ukrainian troops were deployed in the Debaltsevo salient the day it was close February 9th at Logvinova.

A captured Ukrainian commander of the 25th "Kievian Rus" Battalion, identified as Alexei ""Vysota", said in a video that rebel units which moved into blocking positions on Highway M04 were also supported by several other units, which had also taken blocking positions across two other roads leading north out of the salient.

"Vysota" said that 2,500 Ukrainians died in Debaltsevo.

Among equipment lost during the operation, Zakharchenko said that 170 tanks were captured either in operating condition, or could be repaired. The number of captured tanks are roughly equivalent to two tank brigades under Russian establishment, and were probably T-72B1s and T64s.

Another 50 artillery pieces were captured, and Zakharcheko said his military was still hauling intact trucks full of ammunition from Debaltsevo.

Zakharchenko said that with the newly signed agreement between Ukraine, United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom, Ukrainian president Piotr Poroshenko had "capitulated", presumably to the Russian backed rebels. Zarcharcheko also hinted that equipment and materiel losses at Debaltsevo and in Ilovaisk last August were so severe, Porosheko was scrambling to find military aid from abroad.

Zakharcheko lead some troops during the later stages of the final assault on Debaltsevo, and was wounded in the foot. He said at the press conference that rebels had 3,000 troops available to assault the city, but only 1,000 were sent in. The troop concentrations included troops from Lugansk, which also included newly deployed Cossack units.

One of the biggest problems in the final operation was how cold it became, with temperature lows of 3.2F at night.

Zakharchenko said that artillery attacks from Ukrainian artillery went from 70 to 80 per day down to 20, including near constant attacks at Gorlovka to the north of Donetsk city.

Zakharchenko told journalists at the press conference he expected Ukrainians to attack no later than early May, and he expected "provocations" to continue until then.

Chris Covert writes about foreign military issues for He can be reached at Click here for a list of stories in the The 2014 War in Ukraina category.

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Click here for a list of stories in the The 2014 War in Ukraina category