Criticising Ukraine for cutting off gas to eastern regions under the control of the pro-Russian separatists, Putin said: “Imagine these people will be left without gas in winter. Not only that there is famine … It smells of genocide. We hope … that gas supplies will not be interrupted. But this does not depend only on us, it depends on the financial discipline of our Ukrainian partners,” Putin said.
News that no Ukrainian troops had died at the front was by far the most unambiguous signal yet that the French- and German-brokered truce is now holding. The rebels had initially spurned the ceasefire, insisting it did not apply to their main target, the town of Debaltseve, which they stormed last week. Kiev has since accused the separatists of reinforcing for a possible further assault deeper into territory the Kremlin calls “New Russia”. But for now, the fighters appear determined to be seen to implement the agreement.
Reuters journalists, operating independently in rebel-held territory, saw columns of howitzers driven away from the front in several locations on Wednesday after initial moves on Tuesday. A column of 24 self-propelled howitzers headed away from the front through the city of Makiyvka adjacent to the main rebel stronghold, Donetsk. Another five were spotted driving away from the front near Yenakiyve, further north.