Ukraine retakes key port city from Russian separatists

posted at 1:01 pm on June 13, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

The last few weeks have been bad for the “pro-Russian separatists” in eastern Ukraine. No one took their plebiscite on autonomy seriously, Ukraine’s national elections succeeded in establishing credibility for the central government, and Vladimir Putin has still not come to their rescue. The emboldened Ukrainian government gave the go-ahead to use force in taking back its strategic port city of Mariupol today, and that mission has apparently succeeded:

The Ukrainian flag fluttered over the regional headquarters of Mariupol on Friday after government forces reclaimed the port city from pro-Russian separatists in heavy fighting and said they had regained control of a long stretch of the border with Russia.

The advances are significant victories for the pro-European leadership in a military operation to crush the armed rebellion, which began in east Ukraine in April, and hold the former Soviet republic of 45 million together.

In central Mariupol, police cordoned off several streets, where roadblocks of sandbags and concrete blocks, once manned by rebels, were riddled with bullet-holes and the burnt-out hulk of an armoured personnel carrier with rebel insignia smouldered.

“At 10:34 a.m. the Ukrainian flag was raised over City Hall in Mariupol,” Interior Minister Arsen Avakov wrote on Facebook, less than six hours after the attack began on the city of 500,000, Ukraine’s biggest Azov Sea port.

A ministry aide said the government forces stormed the rebels after they were surrounded and given 10 minutes to surrender. At least five separatists and two servicemen were killed in the battle before many of the rebels fled.

The operation presented the most direct challenge yet to Russia, as it cuts off a key route to Crimea:

Mariupol is the second-largest city in the eastern Donetsk region that has declared independence from the government in Kiev. The key port sits along the main road leading from Russia to the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed in March from Ukraine.

However, rebels in Donetsk claim they have three tanks that crossed the Russian frontier earlier:

The renewed fighting Friday came as rebel leaders confirmed they now have three tanks. Government officials say the tanks were part of a column of armored vehicles that crossed the porous border into Ukraine from Russia, but there has been no independent confirmation that they came from Russia.

Denis Pushilin, a leader of the separatist Donetsk People’s Republic, told Russian state television Friday that they have the tanks but it was “improper to ask” where they had gotten them.

“They are in Donetsk and are the minimum that we have to defend the city,” he said.

Raw video shows that Mariupol was no walkover for Kyiv:

Meanwhile, if the rebels are hoping for help from Putin, they may be disappointed. Putin spoke at length with new Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko yesterday about how to proceed on a plan for peace, but Poroshenko didn’t feel moved enough by it to postpone the retaking of Mariupol:

On Thursday, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin “held a substantial and long phone conversation,” the Ukrainian President’s media office said. The leaders discussed Poroshenko’s peace plan to resolve the situation in the east of Ukraine, it said. Poroshenko has called on the rebels to lay down their arms and engage in talks.

Also Thursday, Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s U.N. ambassador, said he would introduce a resolution on Ukraine at the U.N. Security Council in light of what he said was a deteriorating situation in the country.

Churkin told reporters the resolution, to be introduced behind closed doors, would focus on stopping the violence in Ukraine and addressing political efforts through the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

That’s going nowhere in a hurry. The US and UK will almost certainly veto it, if for no other reason than retaliation for Russia’s earlier vetoes of Western proposals at the UN Security Council on Ukraine. Besides, the Putin-backed rebels abducted OCSE observers earlier in the conflict, claiming that they were spies, which makes this proposal look dead on arrival even with Putin’s friends, let alone his opponents.

Now the question will be how Putin will respond to the liberation of Mariupol. At least so far, Moscow’s playing that pretty close to the vest.


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Iraqi soldiers this is how it’s done. You want your country to live you f$&@king fight for it.

Hope this keeps going well for Ukraine.

coolrepublica on June 13, 2014 at 1:03 PM

Good news .

Lucano on June 13, 2014 at 1:04 PM

So far, the chocolate maker is not a melting bunny.

Schadenfreude on June 13, 2014 at 1:06 PM

Man, obama kicked putin’s ass.

What a whuppin’.

Putin’s talk was cheap, obama’s sanctions were expensive.

everdiso on June 13, 2014 at 1:11 PM

Something tells me regular Russian forces will soon be in Ukraine in force. That’s how Putin rolls.

Steve Eggleston on June 13, 2014 at 1:13 PM

Now the question will be how Putin will respond to the liberation of Mariupol. At least so far, Moscow’s playing that pretty close to the vest

…its not a moms vest …either!

KOOLAID2 on June 13, 2014 at 1:17 PM

Iraqi soldiers this is how it’s done. You want your country to live you f$&@king fight for it.

Hope this keeps going well for Ukraine.

coolrepublica on June 13, 2014 at 1:03 PM

Yep. Good to see Ukraine showing some real momentum here, I was genuinely concerned the whole country would collapse.

Something tells me regular Russian forces will soon be in Ukraine in force. That’s how Putin rolls.

Steve Eggleston on June 13, 2014 at 1:13 PM

Maybe, maybe not. I was not too terribly impressed with Russia’s performance in Georgia in 2008.

It’s also possible Putin’s going to just keep Crimea and feel he’s made his point. Ukraine itself is a basket case economically and he may not want the responsibility. I’m not pro-Obama by any means but Putin stepping back on Ukraine a bit – whether due to sanctions, economic concerns, or something else – is good news for the US, and not just Obama.

We’ll see what he does. Ultimately it’s clear that without direct Russian intervention, Ukraine seems likely to regain control of eastern Ukraine.

Doomberg on June 13, 2014 at 1:18 PM

Most transparent:

Obama Admin Forbids Lawmakers From Taking Photos Of Illegal Immigrant Facility

http://dailycaller.com/2014/06/12/child-immigrant-facility-dog-and-pony-show-invite-comes-with-tons-of-rules/

davidk on June 13, 2014 at 1:20 PM

Weird, after all the angst on hotair about those poor ukies being victimized by putin the great and terrible…..only NINE comments on this happy story.

Almost as if hotairians never really cared about ukrainians or putin at all.

everdiso on June 13, 2014 at 2:08 PM

Putin not happy, which makes very happy.

SC.Charlie on June 13, 2014 at 2:28 PM

Almost as if hotairians never really cared about ukrainians or putin at all.

everdiso on June 13, 2014 at 2:08 PM

Or maybe they’re just concerned with something else a bit hotter at the moment.

GWB on June 13, 2014 at 2:39 PM

Putin is distracted by the Islamic head clopping going on near his pipe lines.

He may have to deal with that first.

APACHEWHOKNOWS on June 13, 2014 at 2:45 PM

I think Doom has it about right. My concern is that the world’s attention will be in the Middle east, which will give Putin the window he needs to move into Ukraine. The world turns as the stomach churns.

vnvet on June 13, 2014 at 2:52 PM

Weird, after all the angst on hotair about those poor ukies being victimized by putin the great and terrible…..only NINE comments on this happy story.

Almost as if hotairians never really cared about ukrainians or putin at all.

everdiso on June 13, 2014 at 2:08 PM

Your “concern” is noted.

davidk on June 13, 2014 at 3:03 PM

Weird, after all the angst on hotair about those poor ukies being victimized by putin the great and terrible…..only NINE comments on this happy story.

Almost as if hotairians never really cared about ukrainians or putin at all.

everdiso on June 13, 2014 at 2:08 PM

Hmmm. I guess that stings. If we don’t have enough comments on a story, then it means we don’t care and that any comments we previously made were what? Racist?

Does the left have any ability to engage honestly or with some semblance of intellect – or is snark all you have?

Monkeytoe on June 13, 2014 at 3:31 PM

Doomberg on June 13, 2014 at 1:18 PM

Putin got the Black Sea mineral rights which are valuable and a committment to raise the price Ukraine pays for natural gas by 50% plus a committment to pay for outstanding debts. Europe (US?) gets to help pay those debts and the extra cost of the natural gas unless Putin takes the whole country and then he assums the debt. So, yes Putin has done alright and does not need to upset his apple cart yet.

KW64 on June 13, 2014 at 3:34 PM

A little good news, no thanks to the Choom Gang.

formwiz on June 13, 2014 at 5:13 PM

Moving Russian forces(light infantry, special forces, armor) means a heavy tail, which Putin does not have. If the Russians go, they will have to fight with what they can carry. There is price for paying off, when you want to retain power. Putin is paying that price in Ukraine for the moment.

flackcatcher on June 13, 2014 at 5:38 PM

Almost as if hotairians never really cared about ukrainians or putin at all.

everdiso on June 13, 2014 at 2:08 PM

Excuse me, but who the hell are you?

I would direct you to my Twitter, under a different name, with 8000+ tweets almost all regarding the situation in Ukraine, but Hot Air has developed such a low class of troll these days and I don’t need this sort of stupidity clogging up my feed. I’ve celebrated Ed’s efforts to strengthen awareness of the situation in Ukraine back when the current government was nothing more than the dream of a few thousand protestors standing on the Maidan. I thank him for his continued reporting on the successes and ongoing trials today.

As far as interest in the situation you embarrass yourself with your claim above that Obama did jack. I seriously dare you to repeat that in front of any Ukrainian. The West embarrassed themselves in this scenario. “Deep concern” is now a joke for Ukrainians that equates to “go f yourself.” Why has the situation turned then, for the moment, in the favor of Ukraine? Because Putin’s efforts outside of a few Eastern cities have failed. The people in Odessa and Kharkov have easily turned away Putin’s efforts to control those cities, in a far more unified manner than Putin ever feared. In Russian speaking Nikolaev and Dnipropetrovsk separatists never even got the slightest foothold.

In other words, patriotic Ukrainians are saving their beleaguered nation. Just as patriotic Ukrainians held firm in Kyiv while being shot at, just as patriotic Ukrainians rose up against corrupt local governments across the nation to remove the teeth behind Yanukovych’s corrupt attempts to legislate against their freedom, and just as patriotic Ukrainians finally stormed the Rada last February and overthrew their corrupt tyrant.

Meanwhile our corrupt tyrant continues… not the salvation for Ukraine but the incompetent reason many parts of the nation didn’t even receive US humanitarian aid until a couple of weeks ago. I salute Petro Poroshenko and Arseniy Yatsenyuk for keeping the fight on, and not blinking against Russia’s incursion. And to you, your trolling, and your corrupt President… I express only my “deep concern.”

Gingotts on June 13, 2014 at 7:40 PM