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article imageUkraine retakes two eastern cities from rebels

By Nathan Salant     Jul 6, 2014 in World
Slavyansk - Ukraine's security forces recaptured two key cities in the eastern half of the country Saturday from pro-Russia insurgents whose rebellion suddenly appears to be faltering.
Most of the rebels occupying Slavyansk and Kramatorsk for months have now fled the two cities, the office of Ukraine's president, Petro Poroshenko, told Cable News Network (CNN).
"They are running," Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said.
"This morning, intelligence suggests that . . . a significant number of fighters have fled Slovyansk," he said.
Slavyansk and Kramatorsk were at the center of rebel efforts to set up a separate country independent of Ukraine's pro-Western government in Kiev.
The two cities are part of same region as Donetsk, the city that declared itself an independent state in March.
Militant leader Pavel Gubarev told CNN that the head of rebel forces, Igor Girkin, fled Slovyansk to head for Donetsk, from where the battle for control of eastern Ukraine would continue.
Videos posted on social media sites late Saturday showed Ukraine's flag flying at various locations in Kramatorsk, CNN said.
The onslaught by Ukraine's government in Kiev began late last month, days after Poroshenko announced an end to a 10-day ceasefire he had declared.
Ukraine's parliament speaker, Oleksandr Turchynov, called the campaign an "anti-terror operation" mounted against separatists, and Poroshenko said he would not renew the ceasefire to allow Kiev to "attack and liberate our land," CNN said.
Whether that means Ukraine also plans to try to recapture Crimea, seized by the Russian Federation shortly after hostilities broke out between Kiev and rebel forces, remains to be seen, however.
Ukraine has accused Russia of supporting the separatist movement out of anger over the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych in February and the takeover of the Kiev government by pro-Western groups.
Yanukovych was ousted following weeks of protests over his refusal to sign a long-pending agreement to associate with the European Union and instead agreeing to join an association with Moscow.
More about Ukraine, Donetsk, Rebels, Kiev, Russia
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