The Ukrainian government’s new initiative against pro-Russian militants in the east of the nation is beginning to yield results, according to a BBC report claiming that militants are beginning to retreat from Sloviansk after the government regained control of nine city checkpoints this weekend.
The reports follow the news that the government has taken control of a television tower and moved deeper into rebel-controlled territory. The BBC states, however, that reporters in Sloviansk claim that the center of the city is “currently quiet,” despite the recent escalation of violence in that area.
According to the Kyiv Post, the Ukrainian Interior Ministry announced that four soldiers were killed Monday fighting rebels in Sloviansk. Thirty more were wounded. The newspaper adds that the Interior Ministry is reporting that “separatists used unarmed civilians as human shields as they attacked Ukrainian troops and set fire to nearby buildings.” This increased the number of civilian injuries in the area, as well as a pro-Russian rebel attack on a “minibus that was carrying wounded people from the battlefield.”
Sloviansk represents the first major military offensive against Russia by the Ukrainian government directly in the east, where pro-Russian rebels are attempting to replicate the annexation of Crimea and whittle away at the nation’s provinces. That offensive has cost the Ukrainian government; militants have shot down helicopters, in addition to the attacks on civilians and the wounded, but reports from those on the ground indicate that signs of retreat are visible.
Russia has decried this latest offensive. Reuters reports that a spokesman for President Vladimir Putin said that Moscow was “extremely worried,” as they have not heard from a Russian envoy deployed to the region. Moscow also called the Ukrainian initiative “criminal,” claiming it violated a recent peace accord between the nations.