Ukrainian forces routed pro-Russian rebels in a flashpoint area of eastern Ukraine on Saturday and raised the country’s blue and yellow flag again over what had for months 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 fleeing Slaviansk 20 km (12 miles) to the north.
About 100-150 Ukrainian troops patrolled the centre of Slaviansk and some soldiers were bringing out weapons and ammunition from one of the administration buildings the rebels had been using as a headquarters.
Shooting could be heard from the outskirts of the town which had served as a stronghold for rebel forces command, and one Ukrainian soldier said the city was not yet fully under government control.
Newly-appointed Defence Minister Valery Heletey appeared confident in reporting to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.
“Your order to free Slaviansk from the (separatist) fighters has been carried out,” he was quoted as saying on the presidential website.