Ukrainian forces "liberated Slaviansk from terrorists": Poroshenko
Saturday, July 05, 2014 - 02:21
The Ukrainian President says Slaviansk has been cleared from ''the heavily armed gang of criminals'' in an offensive to re-capture the pro-Russian stronghold. Jillian Kitchener reports.
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The Ukrainian flag dances proudly over the main administrative building in Slaviansk -- formally a pro-Russian stronghold.
Separatists have fled the city after sustained fire from Ukrainian soldiers.
A symbolic victory, noted by President Poroshenko:
(SOUNDBITE) (Ukrainian) UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT PETRO POROSHENKO ADDRESSING NATION, SAYING:
"Today, on July 5, Ukrainian armed forces and national guard liberated Slaviansk from terrorists. Today the Ukrainian flag is flying again, above the town which armed militants considered an unapproachable fortress. Yes, it is not a full victory yet. And not a reason to celebrate with fireworks. Though the clearing of Slaviansk from the heavily armed gang of criminals has an important symbolic meaning - it is the turning point in the fight with armed militants for the territorial integrity of Ukraine." (6134)
What once belonged to the rebels, is laid outside a government building -- one that the rebels were using as their headquarters. (shot of weapons lying outside)
Slaviansk's re-capture represents Kiev's most notable military victory in three months of fighting.
But some Ukrainians are left wondering if they can repair all that has been broken. (shot of broken homes)
(SOUNDBITE) (Russian) MYKOLAIVKA RESIDENT, OLGA, SAYING:
"We won't wish anyone to go through what we went through. We won't wish it even to an enemy. There were air-strikes, We went through such tough times. Tank shelling is a joke compare to what we've lived through. Why did they need to do it? We are civilians. We didn't do anything bad to anyone."
Military officials put the blame for the destruction on pro-Russian militants.
They say the army is prohibited to use artillery and air-force in populated areas.
The crisis is far from over. The Interior Minister says pro-Russian rebel units are moving on to other areas in the country.
(SOUNDBITE) (Russian) UKRAINIAN INTERIOR MINISTER, ARSEN AVAKOV, SAYING:
"Anti-Terrorist Operation units will move step by step cleaning the territory off terrorists. We can't allow ourselves to leave some gangs of bandits in the rear. That's why we do it systematically. We inspect territory block by block, de-mine it, find firing points. If they exist, we neutralize them and go further."
But for Slaviansk, a significant battle has been won.
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