Ukraine to Russia: 'Get out of our land'

  • A pro-Russian rebel communicates from a small office in a factory compound where separatists of the Separate Repair and Refurbishment Battalion repair seized Ukrainian military vehicles and artillery on Feb. 25, 2015 in Donestk, Ukraine. Although fighting has eased and some heavy weaponry has been moved from the front line following the Minsk ceasefire agreement, the Ukrainian government remains concerned that pro-Russian forces will turn their attentions toward Mariupol, a strategically important port city on the Black Sea.
  • A man pushes a wheelbarrow past a house damaged by fighting in the town of Debaltseve, Feb. 25, 2015. Ukraine’s military said on Wednesday that none of its troops had been killed at the front in the last 24 hours and only one had been wounded, with a spokesman describing it as the first day with no fatalities in “at least several weeks.”
  • Civilians wait in line outside a bank to receive a one time cash donation from Russian-backed rebels on Feb. 25, 2015 in Debaltseve, Ukraine.
  • A dog runs around a bank while civilians receive a one time cash donation from Russian-backed rebels on Feb. 25, 2015 in Debaltseve, Ukraine.
  • A man pushes an elderly woman down the street in a wheelchair on Feb. 25, 2015 in Debaltseve, Ukraine. After approximately one month of fighting, Russian backed rebels successfully forced Ukrainian troops to withdraw from the town of 100,00 people on Feb. 18. Only approximately 11,000 civilians remain in the town. Debaltseve is considered an asset to both Ukrainians and the rebels due to the railway station and its connection to other eastern Ukranian towns.
  • Pro-Russian separatists hand out boxes of food to civilians on Feb. 25, 2015 in Debaltseve, Ukraine.
  • Civilians wait for free food to be handed out by Russian-backed rebels on Feb. 25, 2015 in Debaltseve, Ukraine.
  • Russia-backed separatist stand next to bodies of Ukrainian servicemen retrieved from the rubble of the airport building while a man searches them for identity papers outside Donetsk, Ukraine, Feb. 25, 2015. Ukrainian troops held captive in the separatist stronghold of Donetsk began digging through the rubble Wednesday to retrieve the bodies of fellow soldiers killed last month in a bitter battle for the city’s airport.
  • Civilians wait in a line to receive medicine from Russian-backed rebels on Feb. 25, 2015 in Debaltseve, Ukraine.
  • A woman cleans up broken glass at the partially destroyed Debaltseve train station on Feb. 25, 2015 in Debaltseve, Ukraine.
  • Vasily Yakovenko, captain of a Ukrainian military medical unit, pats a dog near the village of Luhanske, eastern Ukraine, Feb. 24, 2015. Ukrainian officials said they haven’t yet started pulling heavy weapons back from a frontline in eastern Ukraine because of continued rebel violations of a cease-fire deal.
  • A woman waits for donated medicine on Feb. 25, 2015 in Enakievo, Ukraine.
  • Stray dogs are seen in the streets of Donetsk, Ukraine, Feb. 22, 2015.
  • Kiev downtown underpass, Feb. 24, 2015. Tensions, unrest and battles have been ongoing for 10 months between Ukraine military and militias and the Russian army. Crimea and Sevastopol were annexed by Russia in March 2014 and the fear in the region is that Russia wants to expand even further into the Ukraine territories.
  • A resident tips his hat at the Kramatorsk train Station, Feb. 23, 2015. Tensions, unrest and battles have been ongoing for 10 months between the Ukrainian military, pro-Russian militias and the Russian army.
  • Tensions, unrest and battles have been ongoing for 10 months between Ukrainian military, separatist militias and the Russian army. Crimea and Sevastopol were annexed by Russia in March 2014 and the fear in the region is that Russia wants to expand even further into eastern Ukraine.
  • A woman hugs a cat in Debaltseve, Ukraine, Feb. 23, 2015. After weeks of relentless fighting, the embattled Ukrainian rail hub of Debaltseve fell last week to Russia-backed separatists.
  • A fighter of the self proclaimed Republic of Donetsk is seen during his guard duty at the entrance of the emplacement of his battallion, Feb. 21, 2015.

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Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk is demanding that Russian President Vladimir Putin remove heavy weaponry from eastern Ukraine, a key condition of a truce that Ukrainian officials accuse Russia of violating.

“Russians, get out of our land,” Yatsenyuk said in an interview with CNBC on Tuesday. “Russian military and boots are still on Ukrainian ground.”

The cease-fire agreement, forged earlier this month with help from France and Germany, committed Russia and Ukraine to withdraw heavy weapons from the front lines of the conflict, which has claimed more than 5,000 lives since last March, when Russia forcibly annexed the Crimean peninsulaBoth countries promised to allow monitoring by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and to launch a dialogue for holding local elections in the disputed Donetsk and Luhansk regions. 

Although the cease-fire led to decreased fighting between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists, reports of minor shelling continued hours after the agreement went into effect. Last week, the truce was shaken again by the rebel capture of Debaltseve, a critical railroad hub in eastern Ukraine, forcing thousands of Ukrainian troops to retreat from the city.

The United States and its allies are considering imposing additional sanctions on Russia for allegedly undermining the truce. Multiple world leaders have stressed the need for the cease-fire to remain in place, but there is skepticism that can happen. Western sanctions have strained the Russian economy, which is expected to fall into a recession this year, but has done little to loosen Putin’s grip on power or to deter his efforts to expand Moscow’s influence over Eastern Europe.

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