Ukrainian Liveblog Day 138: Pro-Russian Separatists Flee Slavyansk, Leaving Prisoners

July 5, 2014

Yesterday’s liveblog can be found here. For an overview and analysis of this developing story see our latest podcast.

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For links to individual updates click on the timestamps.

Below we will be making light updates due to the holiday weekend.

The Destruction — And Weapons — Left Behind In Slavyansk

Today the major headline is that the Russian-backed separatists have fled Slavyansk, their primary military headquarters since the start of this crisis. In their wake, a few things have become clear — between the looting, and the damage from the war itself, Slavyansk has heavily damaged and will take a long time to rebuild.

It’s also clear that the separatists have taken heavy losses, and have fled without a lot of their weapons and supplies.

Translation: the column was shot up a bit #ATO

How they play chess in Slavyansk:

Weapons stores abandoned by the fleeing fighters:
GRAD Rockets Reportedly Used East Of Donetsk

This video has the title “Shelling of Saur-Mogila from GRADs.” Saur-Mogila is a monument south of Snizhne on the way to the Russian border (here). It has a distinctive look (the preview from the video has nothing to do with the video):


The multiple small explosions stretched across a target area could indicate a GRAD rocket strike.

It’s not clear which side is behind this strike, what the intended target is, or when the video was shot, though it has today’s date.

Separatist Armor Reportedly Redeployed in Donetsk and Lugansk
The separatists from Slavyansk do appear to be redeploying in both Donetsk and in the Lugansk/Kramatorsk area, 
Several videos also reportedly show separatist convoys approaching Lugansk and/or Kramatorsk. Two videos, the one below and this one, apparently from the same camera, claim to show one of the convoys:

This video is reportedly taken in Druzhkivka, south of Kramatorsk on the road to Donetsk. It reportedly shows the milita moving toward Donetsk (i.e. south) but we have not geolocated it yet. One of the vehicles is labeled “to Kiev.”

Pro-Russian Separatists Plan to Re-Locate to Donetsk and Gorlovka
Pavel Gubarev, the self-proclaimed governor of “Donetsk People’s Republic” says the separatists plan to relocated from Slavyansk to Donetsk and Gorlovska, RIA Novosti and reported. The Interpreter has translated his statement:

“Igor Strelkov made the decision to leave Slavyansk. This was implemented last night. The losses of the militia are minimal. In an organized and unified manner, the militia forces have headed toward Kramatorsk, and henceforth the deployment apparently will be in Gorlovka and Donetsk.”

Gubarev said this would buy them time while the Ukrainian forces re-grouped.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian Council for National Security and Defense says the information that Strelkov has left Slavyansk is still being checked, reported.

Separatists Reportedly Maintaining Positions in Lugansk Region; Explosions Heard in Donetsk

Komsomolskaya Pravda is reporting the flight of separatists from Slavyansk, and noting that some vehicles were damaged during the escape as they came under fire.

Channel 1 is reporting also that the separatists have fled Slavyansk but are maintaining their positions in Lugansk Region, and also reportedly helping civilians caught in the crossfire to escape.

Radio Svaboda reports that the Ukrainian Army is saying it has liberated Slavyansk:
Meanwhile, fighting appears to have broken out in Donetsk, and RIA Novosti is also reporting that two fighter jets have been spotted making airstrikes in the area. We have not independently confirmed this report.
Translation: Explosions and shots are heard in the area of the Donetsk Airport.
RBK Reports Separatists Fled, Ukrainian Army Controls Slavyansk
Citing Russia’s state Channel 1, RBK is reporting that separatists have fled Slavyansk and the Ukrainian Army has taken control of the city. The Interpreter has translated an excerpt:

Slavyansk has fallen under control of Ukrainian forces early this morning 5 July, and protesters have been forced to leave town, the headquarters of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic confirmed for Channel 1.

At first there was a massive shelling of the city. According to eyewitnesses, Ukrainian military and fighters of the National Guard closed a circle around Slavyansk, tanks and infantry entered the town, and street-fighting began. Then the militia decided to retreat.

They have broken through to Kramatorsk, despite solid firing from the side of the Ukrainian soldiers. As Novosti Donbassa has reported, the militia have left Slavyansk and are headed toward Kramatorsk and Artyomovsk. According to eye-witnesses, followers of one of the leaders of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic Igor Strelkov have hoisted the flag of the Strelkovites over the city council building in Kramatorsk.

Ukrainian media are citing reports from eye-witnesses on social networks. Thus, in the Kramatorsk group on Facebook, users are describing columns of two tanks, three KAMAZ trucks and eight cars without headlights hurrying along the highway from Slavyansk. The column is headed toward the center of Kramatorsk, where the headquarters of the local militia is located.

Twitter users have reported 50 vehicles which have broken through to Kramatorsk. Eyewitnesses also noted that one of the BTRS and five of the cars with militia are in the district of Lazurny.

ITAR-TASS Reports Separatists Have Fled Slavyansk, Headed to Kramotorsk

As of 11:08 am local time, ITAR-TASS reported that pro-Russian separatists have fled Slavyansk, and are headed toward Karamatorsk and Artyomovsk. An ambulance taking wounded out of the city has come under fire. The Interpreter has translated an excerpt of the story:

Fighters of the people’s militia of Slavyansk left the city early Saturday morning. The headquarters of the militia is being moved to Kramatorsk.

According to the status as of Saturday morning, Slavyansk was practically emptied out. The city was once again bombed last night, people left Slavyansk in columns headed toward Kramatorsk.

It is known that two ambulances taking wounded from the hospital fell under fire despite the fact that Ukrainian authorities promised to organize a humanitarian corridor for those wishing to leave Slavyansk. The number of deaths and injuries are being clarified.

The Slavyansk hospital is being evacuated to Donetsk. The chief physician of the hospital in Donetsk reported that there are few personnel, everyone is busy placing wounded fighters. There are twice as many wounded now.

The villages of Semyonovka and Nikolayeva which had for a long time been the only corridor linking with Donetsk is now occupied by Ukrainian soldiers.

Meanwhile, Oleksiy Matsuka, editor of Novosti Donbass, has posted the following comment on his Facebook page, translated by The Interpreter:

It is already known for certain that the goal of Strelkovs’ terrorists is Donetsk. They intend to consolidate a stronghold in the city, the local DPR separatists no longer control the situation in the city. Now it is not clear whether the “Vostok” Batallion will accept the gang of Strelkovites and what they will come to an agreement about — an alliance, or whether the Vostokites will not allow the Strelkovites in and there will be a bloodbath.

So it seems that while reports are now being confirmed that Strelkov and his fighters have fled Slavyansk, it is only to try to join up with other separatists in Donetsk and keep control there. The demobilization order Strelkov was earlier reported to have issued has not been confirmed.

Ukrainian Interior Minister Claims Separatists Fleeing Slavyansk
Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov has posted a statement on his Facebook page about an hour ago that separatists are fleeing:

THEY ARE FLEEING! Before dawn, the scouts reported that Girkin [Strelkov] and a significant number of the fighters had fled form Slavyansk, sowing confusion among the few who remained…They are rolling toward Gorlovka. Along the way, our combat groups are “welcoming” them. The terrorists have suffered losses and are surrendering into captivity..

Even so, there is no throwing hats in the air or simplification. Only guaranteed, planned actions not leaving any chances to the terrorists — this is the strategy of the ATO headquarters headed by Viktor Muzhenko, which is supported by all the combat forces taking part in the operation.

But we’ll settle things with the Girkins, Beses [Demon, nickname of Igor Bezler] and other low-lifes.

Separatists Deny Reports They Have Fled Rebel Stronghold in Slavyansk: BBC

Pro-Russian separatists have denied reports that they have fled their stronghold in Slavyansk, the BBC reports:

Ukraine’s interior minister said a large number of rebels had left but admitted other fighters remained.

Ukrainian forces launched an offensive against the separatists this week after a 10-day ceasefire broke down.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has said he is ready to return to a ceasefire but there has been no confirmation of any new talks.

If the hostages have indeed been able to break free, that would imply that the pro-Russian separatists have lost control of the City Department building where they were holding them in the basement.

We’ll continue to report this story which is likely to have any number of conflicting reports as the day wears on and as each side in the conflict wars for control of the narrative via the media.

Poroshenko Said to Give Order to Raise Ukrainian Flag Over Slavyansk

We’re still waiting to confirm the news that separatists have reportedly fled from Slavyansk, which broke at dawn local time as freed prisoners contacted reporters.

Meanwhile, ZN.UA is reporting that Poroshenko has ordered the Ukrainian flag to be raised:

Translation: Poroshenko has ordered the flag of Ukraine to be raised over Slavyansk.
Col. Strelkov Reportedly Gives Demobilization Order to Pro-Russian Separatists

Translation: Girkin’s order for demobilization. It’s not a fake.

As separatists reportedly fled their stronghold in Slavyansk at dawn today, news has come out about a reported demobilization order from Col. Igor Strelkov (whose real last name is Girkin).

We have not been able to confirm the authenticity of the document.

The alleged order is dated July 4th and states as follows: (translation supplied by The Interpreter):

On Demobilization of the Personnel of the DPR’s Militia

In connection with the decisive actions of the Ukrainian forces, their superiority in numbers of personnel, armaments and better material supplies, waging battle becomes all the more difficult. The people’s militia is suffering great losses. Unfortunately, Russia has refused to support our numerous requests for support and bringing in forces to the territory of the Donetsk People’s Republic. These were only empty words and promises. Putin does not want to see us in his office. The border with Russia is closed, and the delivery of assistance is becoming more and more problematic. He is indifferent to our lives.

We have defended the Donetsk People’s Republic with honor, however I believe that further resistance will only lead to an increase in losses on our side and the further complete destruction of the militia.

With the purpose of preserving the lives of militia personnel, I order:

1. To demobilize militia personnel in the DPR.
2. Militia personnel to return to their places of residence.
3. For the purposes of security to make the move without arms in civilian clothing.
4. Oversight for fulfillment of this order is assigned to F.D. Berezin.


I.I. Strelkov

Pro-Russian Separatists Reportedly Flee Slavyansk, Releasing Prisoners

Information Resistance, a military analytical group close to the Ukrainian armed forces, reports that at dawn, pro-Russian separatists fled the city of Slavyansk, leaving behind their prisoners.

The Interpreter has translated the story:

Pro-Russian terrorists have left Slavyansk. They have left all the buildings they had previously sezied and all the checkpoints on the road to Kramatorsk. This has been reported by eye-witnesses who were previously in captivity at the Slavyansk Interior Ministry City Department and now have now broken free on their own today at dawn.

According to the eye-witnesses who were being held prisoner in the Slavyansk City Department, they discovered the guards were missing at night, but were afraid of going out in the dark, expecting a provocation. OstroV has covered the story.

People left the Slavyansk Interior Ministry City Department as it grew light, at about 3:40 am. Everything was thrown aside in the offices of the Department — personal items, guns, even money.

The detainees did not see a single terrorist in Slavyansk. They drove off to Kramatorsk without hindrance. According to them, all the checkpoints are empty on the road to Kramatorsk.

According to another source, in Kramatorsk there has been active movement observed along Kima Street, leading toward Artyomovsk. There are tank treads visible. It is supposed that the terrorists have broken through in that direction.

The eyewitnesses emphasize that most of the separatists are dressed in civilian clothing and traveling in civilian cars.

Sergei Garmash, editor of OstroV also has tweeted the same news:

Translation: Terrorists have left Slavyansk! City Department empty. Prisoners have fled. Checkpoints also empty.