July 07, 2014
Pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine have retreated to the last major city under their control after a series of successes by the Ukrainian army earlier this week.
The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday that the Ukrainian government had vowed to lay siege to the city of Donetsk in an effort to pursue rebels who have fled there from the crucial city of Slovyansk, which was recaptured by government forces over the weekend.
Ukraine Defense Minister Valeriy Heletey told reporters that government forces had destroyed a large column of armored vehicles and killed dozens of rebels as they fled Slovyansk on Saturday. He vowed that the army would “continue the active phase until the moment when on the territory of Donetsk and Luhansk region there is not a single terrorist left.”
The Journal also reported that rebels had abandoned the town of Kramatorsk, just south of Slovyansk, while the BBC reported that the cities of Artyomivsk and Druzhkivka had also been retaken by Ukrainian forces in another sign of the army’s increased traction in the east.
The rebels’ so-called “tactical retreat” to Donetsk has been met with near-silence from the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Moscow has been accused by Kiev and Washington of fomenting the rebellion in the east as part of an attempt to undermine Ukraine’s pro-European government, which came to power after the overthrow of pro-Russia president Viktor Yanukovych this past February.
Putin’s government has denied Western accusations that it has provided the rebels with troops and weapons, including tanks and rocket launchers. At a rally in Donetsk Sunday, the defiant rebels vowed to continue their fight and called on Moscow to come to their aid.