WASHINGTON — After the pro-Russian rebels were handed a resounding defeat and exit from the eastern city of Slaviansk this past weekend, other rebels in the city of Donetsk are starting to dig in for a last stand against the Ukrainian government and military.
Reuters reported that pro-Russian rebels were building barricades in Donetsk, and worried local residents about a prolonged, street-by-street battle between separatist gunmen and the Ukrainian military.
After a rough start to put down the rebels, the Ukrainian military seems to have gotten its act together.
Slaviansk was a stronghold of the rebels and were unceremoniously defeated by the Ukrainian military, who had honored their side of the truce and ended it after repeated attacks by separatists on their personnel.
Retreating rebels fled to Donetsk from Slaviansk, a distance of 65 miles to the south, and about a thousand of the rebels staged a rally in central Donetsk as a show of support for the separatist movement. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called the victory a turning point in the battle for eastern Ukraine, and yet Ukraine’s richest man, Rinat Ahmetov, pleaded that the Ukrainian military not bomb his home city of Donetsk.
Local city authorities have ceded authority to the armed and masked gunmen, who have set up checkpoints to inspect documents of travelers and drivers entering the city limits. Even after their defeat, rebel commander by the name of Igor Strelkov said that Donetsk would be “much easier to defend than little Slaviansk. However, two other prominent rebel leaders, Alexander Boroday and Denis Pushilin, are now in Russia.
Thousands of native Donetsk residents fled the city, but are in limbo until the conflict is somewhat settled.