The Ukrainian army swept into the city of Slovyansk and took it back from the pro-Russian rebels who had held it for months. The capture of the 100,000-person city was seen, with some grains of salt, as a major moment for Ukraine, which has been struggling to quell an insurrection on its eastern region for about three months.
As David Herszenhorn explained:
While it was not clear that retaking Slovyansk signaled a decisive blow against the rebels, it showed Ukrainian forces finally gaining traction and reasserting state authority in eastern Ukraine, three months after separatists seized cities and towns throughout the region, fracturing this country of 45 million people.
Having ended a ceasefire just days earlier, President Petro O. Poroshenko, the candy king, found this victory particularly sweet:
The state flag of Ukraine is proudly waving over the city, which militants thought was their impregnable fortress. It’s not a complete victory and it’s not a time for fireworks, but clearing Slovyansk of extremely well-armed bandits has a very symbolic meaning. This is a turning point in fighting militants for the territorial integrity of Ukraine.”
Meanwhile, as Max Seddon pointed out, the pro-Russian rebels took solace in history. Russian history, that is:
Pavel Gubarev, a leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, confirmed that Strelkov’s men had left the town to consolidate their forces with other rebels and buy time. “Kutuzov retreated too, and that was the plan,” he wrote on Russian Facebook clone VK, referring to the Russian general whose delaying tactics helped defeat Napoleon in the war of 1812. “Russians basically only ever retreat before a decisive victorious battle,” he added.
As the battle likely turns next to Donetsk, a much bigger city in eastern Ukraine, citizens of Slovyansk will attempt to return to normalcy. It looks to be a tough task.
In besieged Slovyansk up to 35% of housing is destroyed and no longer suitable for living. pic.twitter.com/ATGdH2Qot7— Alex Thorn (@Black_Bomb) July 1, 2014
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.