Pro-Russian separatist forces have been forced to retreat from their stronghold in Slavyansk following "massive shelling" in the early morning from Ukraine's 'anti-terrorist' forces. Armored vehicles entered the city and the rebels, according to RT, decided to move back to their headquarters in Kramatorsk to 'prepare' in advance for further offensives. Just days after the cease-fire was lifted, newly-appointed Defense Minister Valery Heletey commented the "order to free Slaviansk from the (separatist) fighters has been carried out," but pro-Russian supporters are not done yet and exclaimed: "Pass on these words to Putin: the people of the Donbass believed him for some reason when he said he would help. But now they (government forces) are killing peaceful civilians and if that is not genocide I would like to know what is."
Government forces recaptured a flashpoint area of eastern Ukraine from pro-Russian rebels on Saturday, and Ukraine said its blue and yellow flag was flying again over what had been the separatist redoubt of Slaviansk.
A Reuters reporter saw a convoy of about 20 military transport vehicles and buses filled with armed rebels driving out of Kramatorsk where they had gone after apparently earlier fleeing Slaviansk 20 km (12 miles) to the north.
"Your order to free Slaviansk from the (separatist) fighters has been carried out," newly-appointed Defense Minister Valery Heletey was quoted by the presidential website as telling Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.
"A significant number of militants have left Slaviansk ... along the way, our battle groups are greeting them. They are suffering losses and surrendering," he said in a statement on his Facebook page.
As RT reports, according to Channel One’s information “there was massive shelling” and then armored vehicles entered Slavyansk and street fighting began. That’s when the self-defense forces took the decision to leave the city, the channel said.
“Despite the massive shooting, the fighters stormed out of the city and headed for neighboring Kramatorsk. Part of their hardware was shot down in the process,” the channel said.
Prime Minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic, Aleksandr Boroday, explained...
“Our troops have consolidated at the reserve lines of defense, in an organized way and having kept their weaponry. We were prepared for this option, as we have to face tens of thousands of Kiev's military men and hundreds of armored weaponry units – which means almost all the battle-ready Ukrainian army,” Boroday said.
"Taking into account the ‘scorched earth’ tactics employed by Kiev's punitive forces, and the strategy of genocide toward the Donbass population, we declare that every hour of military action claims civilians’ lives,” Boroday said.
This followed impassioned pleas for help late last week...
Igor Strelkov, a Muscovite appointed as defense minister of the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic, said without Moscow's aid the region the rebels lay claim to, known as Novorossiya (New Russia), would fall to Kiev's forces.
"Slaviansk will fall earlier than the rest," he wrote on a rebel website.
"Pass on these words to (Russian President Vladimir) Putin: the people of the Donbass believed him for some reason when he said he would help. But now they (government forces) are killing peaceful civilians and if that is not genocide I would like to know what is.
"The (rebel) fighters are without shoes and don't have anything to fight with."
So far the only actions taken by Russia are to stop selling arms to Ukraine...
The Russian Foreign Ministry announced Saturday that Moscow is halting the process of delivering weapons, Ukrainian military forces' equipment and funds from the territory of Crimea to Kiev authorities due to their military actions in the east, which have resulted in the “deaths of civilians, including children, and civilian infrastructure in Donetsk and Lugansk regions being destroyed.
“The decision will be valid until a full ceasefire in the east of Ukraine by the country’s military and until a peaceful solution is reached,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry said.
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As the tensions shift from blood in the streets to energy-wars centred around Austria, Bulgaria, the South Stream, new 'targeted' sanctions, and a potential German-Russia alliance, one wonders just how long before Putin must act.