Ukraine retakes Slovyansk in new offensive

posted at 11:31 am on July 5, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

The ten-day cease-fire appears to have benefited Kyiv more than the pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine. Just days after launching a new offensive, Ukraine’s military retook the key city of Slovyansk after heavy artillery and armor attacks left parts of the town “in ruins.” New Ukrainian leader Petro Poroshenko ordered the nation’s flag to be raised over the capital as the rebels apparently fled in disarray:

Resurgent government forces on Saturday hoisted the Ukrainian flag over pro-Russian rebels’ main stronghold after a devastating shelling assault that levelled much of the city but delivered Kiev its biggest success of the campaign.

The self-proclaimed mayor of Slavyansk confirmed to AFP that insurgents had abandoned the rustbelt city of 120,000. A local resident said by phone that barricades once manned by the camouflage-clad gunmen stood abandoned since the early morning.

Ukraine’s ability to win back Slavyansk — home to one of the country’s biggest weapons storage facilities that fell to the insurgents on April 6 — marks a key turning point in three months of low-scale warfare that has threatened the very survival of the ex-Soviet state.

Ukraine’s Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said in a Facebook post that the withdrawal was led by senior militia commander Igor Strelkov — alleged by Kiev to be a colonel in Russia’s GRU military intelligence unit.

Both Strelkov and Moscow deny any GRU link despite Western claims that the Kremlin is covertly funding and arming the uprising to destabilise Kiev’s new pro-European leaders and retain control over Russian-speaking eastern regions of Ukraine.

The Russians have even more reason to disclaim any connection. The newfound strength in the Ukrainian military surprised the rebels to such an extent that locals describe a rout, at least according to Ukraine’s government. Rebels discarded their arms as they dispersed pell-mell:

Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said the militants had taken off.

“They are running. This morning intelligence suggests that [separatist militant leader Igor] Girkin and a significant number of fighters have fled Slovyansk … Some remain. Rest going to Gorlovka,” he wrote.

Poroshenko said armed forces were active in the town, but it was unclear to what extent the Ukrainian army had control of it.

He said that residents were handing in weapons dropped by the militants.

Rebel leaders later confirmed the retreat to the BBC, and other sources say it’s worse than they’re admitting:

Alexander Borodai, prime minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, said on a rebel website: “Due to the overwhelming numerical superiority of the enemy our men were forced to abandon their positions.”

Rebels were quoted as saying they had pulled back to the nearby city of Kramatorsk.

But witnesses reported seeing dozens of rebels abandoning checkpoints in Kramatorsk, apparently heading for the main city of Donetsk.

According to the rebels, the Ukraine military offensive broke their morale:

Rebel leaders were quoted as saying the decision to abandon Sloviansk was taken by Igor Strelkov, the military commander of the self-declared Donetsk Peoples’ Republic (DPR).

Mr Strelkov, whose real name is Igor Girkin, had pleaded for Russian intervention on Friday saying his men had lost the will to fight.

So far, Vladimir Putin has been awfully quiet as his proxies fall in eastern Ukraine. The fall of Slovyansk and the plea of Strelkov notwithstanding, the Russian president focused on fence-mending with the US instead of fencing with Poroshenko. Putin offered Barack Obama his warmest wishes for Independence Day yesterday and urged the two nations into a closer partnership for global security:

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday he hoped for better ties with the United States in a July Fourth message to his U.S. counterpart, Barack Obama.

The Independence Day wishes come at a time when relations between the two nations are at their lowest ebb since the Cold War, fueled by tensions over Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

According to the Kremlin website, Putin “expressed a hope for the successful development of the relationship between both countries, based on equal rights and utilitarianism, despite all the difficulties and disagreements they are facing at the moment.”

Putin also said that since the two nations are responsible for global security, they “should cooperate in the interests of not just their own people, but the entire world.”

That got a resounding meh from the White House:

“We’ve seen the message but have no particular comment,” said National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden.

Why has Putin not rushed to Strelkov’s aid? Western sanctions may have something to do with that. Putin doesn’t want to incur any more damage to his economy, let alone to the oligarchs who provide his political support and whom Putin protects. On the other hand, Putin has extended his reach into the Middle East so successfully that the ongoing provocations in eastern Ukraine may have become counter-productive to his long-term goals. He wants Russia to take its former place as the countering superpower to the US, especially in the Eastern Hemisphere, and he’s arguably succeeded. Why push harder in Ukraine now, especially if Strelkov and his forces can’t manage to hold Slovyansk on their own?

That won’t last forever, though. Slovyansk is still quite a ways from the Ukraine-Russian border. It’s not like Slovyansk is Luhansk, after all. Oh, wait


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OT – German spied for USA.

Germany recalled ambassador. Cold relations.

Schadenfreude on July 5, 2014 at 11:42 AM

Many are talking about major revisions to the Constitution (leading one local journalist to ask– “Why don’t we use the American Constitution? It was written by really smart guys, it has worked for over 200 years, and they’re not using it anymore…”)

Schadenfreude on July 5, 2014 at 11:43 AM

Putin offered Barack Obama his warmest wishes for Independence Day yesterday and urged the two nations into a closer partnership for global security:

What does Putin want?

GarandFan on July 5, 2014 at 11:50 AM

Syrian civil war, Iraqi civil war, Ukrainian civil war.

Heckuva job, Barry.

rbj on July 5, 2014 at 11:52 AM

No one cares.

vlad martel on July 5, 2014 at 11:58 AM

Putin offered Barack Obama his warmest wishes for Independence Day yesterday and urged the two nations into a closer partnership for global security

Oh yeah, I trust both of them.

tru2tx on July 5, 2014 at 12:00 PM

Syrian civil war, Iraqi civil war, Ukrainian civil war.

Heckuva job, Barry.

rbj on July 5, 2014 at 11:52 AM

Stop blaming him!

He was elected to look black, stop the war in Iraq and be a not-Bush.

He was re-elected because he successfully looks black, successfully withdrew from the war in Iraq and is incredibly good at being not-Bush.

You people want everything.

Dolce Far Niente on July 5, 2014 at 12:00 PM

Like everybody else, Vlad’s resources are finite.

His Spetznaz guys may be tied up in the Fertile Crescent right now.

Putin offered Barack Obama his warmest wishes for Independence Day yesterday and urged the two nations into a closer partnership for global security:

What does Putin want?

GarandFan on July 5, 2014 at 11:50 AM

What did (Godwin Alert) want with a non-aggession pact in ’39?

formwiz on July 5, 2014 at 12:00 PM

What did (Godwin Alert) want with a non-aggession pact in ’39?

formwiz on July 5, 2014 at 12:00 PM

If there’s a wannabe Hitler on the scene, he’s in the White House.

sharrukin on July 5, 2014 at 12:11 PM

The Kiev government has such a gigantic manpower and firepower advantage, without Russian intervention its inevitable that they’ll take all the rebel-held cities eventually.

But if the rebels have significant support among the local population- and they probably do or they wouldn’t have been able to hold out this long- that won’t end the conflict. It’ll just turn from a conventional war over territory into a partisan war. Kiev is bankrupt and can’t afford to fight a counter-insurgency for years.

Jon0815 on July 5, 2014 at 12:17 PM

I’m shocked that Ukrainians actually don’t want to be a part of the most glorious new Russian Empire under King Pooty. What’s wrong with those guys?

slickwillie2001 on July 5, 2014 at 12:25 PM

Putin also said that since the two nations are responsible for global security…

I’m sure that China read that line with great interest; that perhaps Russia doesn’t have her back..?

ss396 on July 5, 2014 at 12:33 PM

Why has Putin not rushed to Strelkov’s aid?

I’m betting that Putin was really pushing the incursions in order to solidify his hold on Crimea. Yeah, he probably wouldn’t have been disappointed to pick up more of Ukraine, but at this point he’s gotten what he really wanted.

Count to 10 on July 5, 2014 at 12:41 PM

Excellent!

Luthier on July 5, 2014 at 12:49 PM

Obviously, Ukraine leaders never got the memo telling them to roll over and be good little b!tches for Putin. I’m guessing it’s in the same place as Lerner’s lost emails.

platypus on July 5, 2014 at 12:55 PM

Syrian civil war, Iraqi civil war, Ukrainian civil war.

Heckuva job, Barry.

rbj on July 5, 2014 at 11:52 AM

What we need now, clearly, is that illustrious international leader Hillary Clinton as POTUS.

/

Midas on July 5, 2014 at 12:59 PM

Name one obama-foreign-success story, I triple dare you.

Pls. don’t name the advancement of the Taliban and ISIS.

Schadenfreude on July 5, 2014 at 1:02 PM

Putin, who is less of a Marxist than Obama, can afford to be magnanimous, his plans are moving ahead on all fronts.

Just last week the anti-dollar and ant-FATCA alliance gained a lot of ground with cooperation from Brazil, Russian, China, India, and France. Germany banned fracking until 2021 at Russia’s’ request.

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-07-02/brics-are-morphing-anti-dollar-alliance

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-07-04/punishing-france-us-just-accelerated-demise-dollar-0

Viator on July 5, 2014 at 1:24 PM

“Much of” Slovyansk isn’t “levelled.” Eyewitness reports from non-Russian stooges say that there’s moderate damage in the center of the city and almost none anywhere else.

“Just last week the anti-dollar”

aha. ha. ha. ha. aha. zero hedge. aha. ha. ha.

when’s that iranian oil bourse that was going to destroy the petrodollar? going to open again? oh wait it already did after four years of delays and does well less than 1% of the world’s daily oil business. zerohedge was really excited about that too.

deepelemblues on July 5, 2014 at 1:43 PM

aha. ha. ha. ha. aha. zero hedge. aha. ha. ha.

Whatever you say, champ.

Viator on July 5, 2014 at 1:50 PM

after a devastating shelling assault that levelled much of the city but delivered Kiev its biggest success of the campaign.

No, no, no! Putin can only be defeated by Obama’s awesome sanctions. Shelling won’t work. The only other thing that can help is an aggressive hashtag twitter campaign from Michelle.

/everdenso

mankai on July 5, 2014 at 3:25 PM

…I…don’t care!

JugEarsButtHurt on July 5, 2014 at 3:42 PM

Ah lets see. Earlier this year and late last year putin was trying to be all warm and fuzzy with the American people through op-eds in the NYT, then he got all harsh and shot his wad. His underwear is now caught in the islamists door while his pant leg is being chewed by Ukraine.

Now he wants to be friends again, especially since china is in a huge rush to built it’s sea fleet and nuke subs.

Well, politicians are all the same I guess. obummer thinks we’re stupid, so does pootin.

Diluculo on July 5, 2014 at 6:14 PM

Another win for the Free World, as the unstoppable Armed forces of Maydan finally enter a city they claimed to have retaken three months ago, meanwhile losing 1500+ soldiers, dozens of helicopters and fighters, and after laying waste to 100% of the said city’s electricity and water supply infrastructure and making 80% of the civ population flee with continuous MLRS and artillery fire which leveled entire blocks but failed to hit a single rebel target.

All that as a part of a “anti terrorist operation” to free the city from a few hundred evil terrorists (who left the city unscathed with many pieces of armor captured earlier from the great Ukr warriors).

US sponsored allies are all just as valiant and efficient as Mr. Maliki and Mr. Karzai.

Masih ad-Dajjal on July 5, 2014 at 7:38 PM

You guys still can’t bear to admit that obama whupped putin’s arse in embarassing fashion, eh?

everdiso on July 6, 2014 at 12:09 AM

What does Putin want?

GarandFan on July 5, 2014 at 11:50 AM

Mercy.

everdiso on July 6, 2014 at 12:12 AM

You guys still can’t bear to admit that obama whupped putin’s arse in embarassing fashion, eh?

everdiso on July 6, 2014 at 12:09 AM

Can Obamabots get any weirder?

Obama was beaten on Syrian and Iraqi fronts and about to have his arse handed to him in A-stan.

Russia got Crimea, a Black Sea port with the most profound strategic value in the entire Eurasia. All that smoothely and without any casualtees.
And now the fact that Russia doesn’t want a part of mainland Ukraine which has zero strategic value makes it a huge Obama victory? Yeah, keep reaching for those straws.

Masih ad-Dajjal on July 6, 2014 at 5:49 AM

Many are talking about major revisions to the Constitution (leading one local journalist to ask– “Why don’t we use the American Constitution? It was written by really smart guys, it has worked for over 200 years, and they’re not using it anymore…”)
Schadenfreude on July 5, 2014 at 11:43 AM

Maybe we can trade leaders?

Brock Robamney on July 6, 2014 at 7:02 AM

PTL that Putin’s last-gasp gamble failed. Obama actually taking action on this would have been very bad simply because he’d have screwed it up!

LawfulGood on July 6, 2014 at 11:42 AM