Saturday, May 23, 2015Saturday, May 23, 2015

Pro-Russian rebel forces unravel as Ukraine military cuts off key stronghold

Published on Aug 15, 2014 4:40 AM
A file picture dated July 28, 2014 shows Igor Strelkov, the top military commander of the self-proclaimed "Donetsk People's Republic", delivering a press conference in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine. The main military commander of pro-Russian rebels battling government forces in east Ukraine quit his post on August 14, 2014 , the separatist leadership said. -- PHOTO: AFP

DONETSK, Ukraine (AFP) - Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine suffered dramatic setbacks on Thursday as top military chiefs quit and Ukraine's forces pummelled their strongholds, cutting off a key rebel-held city from the Russian border.

Kiev's advance came as a massive Russian "humanitarian" convoy parked up close to the frontier, with doubts still swirling over whether the trucks would be allowed to cross.

The separatist leadership showed signs of unravelling following four months of fighting that have left more than 2,000 dead and many residents in the region without power or running water, and with dwindling food supplies.

The rebels said their main military chief, Igor Strelkov, had resigned, while the rebel commander in the second-biggest insurgent stronghold of Lugansk, Valery Bolotov, told Russian TV he was "temporarily" stepping down because of earlier injuries.

Enjoy 2 weeks of unlimited digital access to The Straits Times. Get your free access now!