The Times West Virginian

World News

July 6, 2014

Ukraine claims victory in rebel stronghold

SLOVYANSK, Ukraine — Ukrainian troops forced pro-Russian insurgents out of a key stronghold in the country’s embattled east on Saturday, a significant success that suggested the government may finally be making gains in a months-long battle against a spreading separatist insurgency.

As rebels fled from Slovyansk, vowing to regroup elsewhere and fight on, President Petro Poroshenko hailed the recapture of the city as “the start of a turning point” in a battle that has claimed more than 400 lives since April.

After a night of heavy fighting that saw heavy artillery fire from Ukraine’s troops, government soldiers were in full control of rebel headquarters in Slovyansk, a city of about 100,000 that has been a center of the fighting between Kiev’s troops and the pro-Russian insurgents.

Soldiers raised the Ukrainian flag over the city council building, while troops carried stockpiles of weapons out of the city’s administrative and police buildings, which have been under rebel control since early April.

“It’s not a total victory. But the purging of Slovyansk of these bands, made up of people armed to the teeth, has incredible symbolic importance,” Poroshenko said in a statement posted on his official website.

Artillery fire on rebel forces began late on Friday and lasted into the night. On Saturday, fighting could still be heard on the northern outskirts of the city.

Ukraine’s newly appointed Minister of Defense, Valery Heletey, was milling around with troops in the city center. He said that three planes with food and other supplies will soon arrive in Slovyansk.

A spokesman for the National Security and Defense Council said earlier that mopping-up operations were continuing.

“Slovyansk is under siege. Now an operation is going on to neutralize small groups hiding in buildings where peaceful citizens are living,” Andriy Lysenko told journalists in Kiev.

Andrei Purgin of the separatist Donetsk People’s Republic told The Associated Press that rebels were evacuating, but claimed the army’s campaign had left the city “in ruins.”

The capture of Slovyansk represented the government’s biggest victory since it abandoned a shaky cease-fire this week and launched an offensive against the separatists. Until now, the Ukrainian army had often appeared feckless in the months-long campaign against the rebels. On Thursday Poroshenko shook up his defense team, appointing Ukraine’s third defense minister since the former president was ousted in February.

It was not yet clear whether the latest advance has permanently crippled the rebels, many of whom are relocating to other cities.

In the city of Donetsk, streets were deserted on Saturday as local officials urged people to stay at home. They said a battle was ongoing near the Donetsk city airport, but did not provide details.

“Militants from Slovyansk and Kramatorsk have arrived in Donetsk,” said Maxim Rovinsky, spokesman for the city council.

Purgin claimed 150 fighters injured in Slovyansk were in Donetsk for treatment.

“More than a hundred militiamen have been killed in the last three days,” said Viktor, a 35-year-old Slovyansk native who had a shrapnel wound in his leg. “The mood is very bad. It seems that we’ve lost this war. And Russia isn’t in a hurry to help.”

Alexei, a driver and local Slovyansk resident who would not give his last name for fear of reprisal, told the AP by phone that he heard bombing throughout the night. When the bombing stopped in the early morning, he left his house and saw that all the rebel checkpoints were abandoned. He said there was some damage to buildings in the center of the city, but said much of the rest of the city had been left untouched.

A rebel commander who would only give his nom de guerre as Pinochet told the AP that rebels had relocated to the nearby town of Kramatorsk, 20 kilometers (12 miles) south of Slovyansk. But outside Kramatorsk, an AP reporter saw an abandoned checkpoint and several hundred rebels, armed and in uniform, driving in minibuses in the direction of Donetsk.

Some rebels played down the significance of Ukraine’s advances. Pavel Gubarev, the self-described governor of the Donetsk People’s Republic, wrote online that the rebels had staged a tactical retreat.

“Kutuzov also retreated, as that was the plan,” he wrote, referring to the 19th century general Mikhail Kutuzov who is credited with defeating Napoleon’s forces in Russia. “In general, Russians only retreat before a decisively victorious battle.”

Others in the rebels’ ranks pleaded publicly with Russia to assist the rebels in their cause. In a video posted online late on Friday, Igor Girkin, the self-described “commander in chief of the Donetsk People’s Republic,” said his men had “lost the will to fight.”

“They want to live in Russia,” said Girkin, also known by his nom de guerre, Igor Strelkov. “But when they tried to assert this right, Russia doesn’t want to help.” He said he believed the troops had only “two or three weeks” before they were defeated if Russia did not step in.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said it was bolstering efforts to deliver medical aid to those in eastern Ukraine, but made no mention of the rebels’ defeat in Slovyansk or plans to provide military aid.

Rebel leaders have pleaded with the Kremlin for military assistance in the past, and some prominent Russian nationalists have publicly taunted Putin, accusing him of cowardice. Such criticism could resonate with the broader Russian public, which has been heavily influenced by Russian state television’s characterization of the Kiev government as a “fascist junta” that is killing Russian-speakers.

Poroshenko said Friday he was ready to conduct another round of talks between representatives from Ukraine, Russia and the rebels. But with the rebels reeling from their attack Saturday, it was unclear whether negotiations could take place.

“That possibility still exists,” said Purgin. “We don’t exclude that the talks could happen in Minsk, because the situation in Donetsk has escalated. Different options are now under discussion.”

1
Text Only
World News
  • Hamas resumes rocket fire on Israel

    Hamas resumed rocket fire Saturday on Israel after rejecting Israel’s offer to extend a humanitarian cease-fire, the latest setback in international efforts to negotiate an end to the Gaza war.
    Despite the Hamas rejection, Israel’s Cabinet decided to extend a truce for 24 hours, until midnight (2100 GMT) Sunday.

    July 27, 2014

  • Gaza sides agree to lull; truce stalled

    Israel-Hamas fighting looked headed for escalation after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry failed Friday to broker a weeklong truce as a first step toward a broader deal and Israel’s defense minister warned Israel might soon expand its Gaza ground operation “significantly.”

    July 26, 2014

  • U.S.: Russia firing across border into Ukraine

    Russia is launching artillery attacks from its soil on Ukrainian troops and preparing to move heavier weaponry across the border, the U.S. and Ukraine charged Friday in what appeared to be an ominous escalation of the crisis.
    Russia accused Washington of lying and charged Ukraine with firing across the border on a Russian village. It also toughened its economic measures against Ukraine by banning dairy imports.

    July 26, 2014

  • U.N. school in Gaza in cross-fire; 15 killed

    A U.N. school in Gaza crowded with hundreds of Palestinians seeking refuge from fierce fighting came under fire Thursday, killing at least 15 civilians and leaving a sad tableau of blood-spattered pillows, blankets and children’s clothing scattered in the courtyard.

    July 25, 2014

  • Jet with 116 on board crashes in Mali

    An Air Algerie jetliner carrying 116 people crashed Thursday in a rainstorm over restive Mali, and its wreckage was found near the border of neighboring Burkina Faso — the third major international aviation disaster in a week.

    July 25, 2014

  • Two more planes with Ukraine bodies arrive in Netherlands

    Two more military aircraft carrying remains of victims from the Malaysian plane disaster arrived in the Netherlands on Thursday, while Australian and Dutch diplomats joined to promote a plan for a U.N. team to secure the crash site which has been controlled by pro-Russian rebels.

    July 25, 2014

  • Bodies of Malaysian jet victims solemnly returned to Dutch soil

    Victims of the Malaysian jetliner shot down over Ukraine returned at last Wednesday to Dutch soil in 40 wooden coffins, solemnly and gently carried to 40 identical hearses, flags at half-staff flapping in the wind.

    July 24, 2014

  • 48 dead in Taiwan plane crash

    Family members of victims of a plane crash were flying to the small Taiwanese island on Thursday where the plane had unsuccessfully attempted to land in stormy weather, killing 48. There were 10 survivors, and authorities were searching for one person who might have been in a wrecked house on the ground.

    July 24, 2014

  • Monitors try to secure Ukraine plane crash site

    International monitors moved gingerly Saturday through fields reeking of the decomposing corpses that fell from a Malaysian airliner shot down over rebel-held eastern Ukraine, trying to secure the sprawling site in hopes that a credible investigation can be conducted.
    But before inspectors ever reach the scene, doubts arose about whether evidence was being compromised.

    July 20, 2014

  • Without radar, missile may not have identified jet

    If Ukrainian rebels shot down the Malaysian jetliner, killing 298 people, it may have been because they didn’t have the right systems in place to distinguish between military and civilian aircraft, experts said Saturday.
    American officials said Friday that they believe the Boeing 777 was brought down by an SA-11 missile fired from an area of eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Russian separatists.

    July 20, 2014

Featured Ads
NDN Editor's Picks
House Ads