Rebels Abandon Slaviansk: Turning Point For Ukraine Crisis?

A week after Ukraine called off a cease-fire with the rebels, Ukrainian forces successfully pushed pro-Russian separatists out of Slaviansk Saturday.

Rebels Abandon Slaviansk: Turning Point For Ukraine Crisis?
Kyiv Post / Anastasia Vlasova

For the first time in months, the Ukrainian flag is flying over the city of Slaviansk.

Saturday marked a decisive win for the Ukrainian government in Kiev. Greatly outnumbered by Ukrainian security forces, pro-Russian separatists were forced to abandon their posts. (Via YouTube / Військове телебачення України)

Slaviansk has been at the heart of Ukraine’s separatist uprising. More than half of city’s residents have fled. Running water and electricity have been cut off in some parts for weeks. (Via Euronews

The rebels withdrew nearly a week after Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called off a 10-day cease-fire and ordered a new offensive in the mainly Russian-speaking border regions. (Via Deutsche Welle)

Speaking with reporters, Ukraine’s speaker of parliament described the rebels’ evacuation as “a watershed moment in the fight against terrorism in the east of our country.” (Via YouTube / turchynov)

Although Ukraine’s government is claiming victory, the separatists aren’t exactly admitting defeat.

The Financial Times quotes a separatist leader who downplayed the rebels' retreat, insisting it was a way to “regroup . . . before the final battle.”  

While the recapture of Slaviansk does mark one of the army’s biggest victories over the past few months, it remains to be seen whether this marks any serious turning point in conflict.

From The New York Times: “Though it was not yet clear if the loss would be decisive blow against the rebels in eastern Ukraine, the recapture of Slovyansk showed that Ukrainian forces were finally gaining traction.”

Meanwhile, pro-Russian news outlets are pointing to an unverified plan drawn up for dealing with the separatists they say was leaked — a plan that includes ground assaults, air strikes and internment camps for protesters. (Via Voice of Russia)

GAYAN CHICHAKYAN: “There’s this leaked confidential document that’s surfaced in the online media that’s allegedly prepared by the RAND Corporation for the Ukrainian government with advice on how to carry out a swift crackdown in the east of the country.” (Via RT

Western media outlets and the American RAND Corporation itself have dismissed the document as fake. (Via Twitter / @shaunwalker7)

Elsewhere in Ukraine, according to some reports, the separatists in Slaviansk have relocated to Kramatorsk. (Via YouTube / Patrick Lancaster)​