Poroshenko orders raising of Ukraine flag in Slovyansk as rebels flee

Ukraine’s president has ordered the army to raise the national flag in the separatist stronghold of Slovyansk after reports that the leadership of pro-Russian separatists had withdrawn from their stronghold. Petro Poroshenko (pictured above) made a statement on Saturday, hours after his interior minister, Arsen Avakov, said a large number of pro-Russian separatists had fled the flashpoint city after attacks from Ukrainian forces. Poroshenko’s website said the newly appointed head of the armed forces general staff had told him separatist fighters came under mortar fire as they tried to break through government lines.

A significant number of militants have left Slovyansk… along the way, our battle group is ‘greeting’ them. They are suffering losses and surrendering.

Interior Minister Arsen Avakov

A rebel commander, who would only give his name as “Pinochet”, told the AP news agency that the rebels had relocated to the nearby town of Kramatorsk. Slovyansk, seized by rebels in April, had become the separatists’ strongest redoubt in eastern Ukraine and a base for Igor Strelkov, a Russian-declared defence minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic.