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Ukraine hoists flag over pro-Russian bastion

Published on Jul 6, 2014 6:33 AM

DONETSK, Ukraine (AFP) - Resurgent government forces on Saturday hoisted the Ukrainian flag over pro-Russian rebels’ main stronghold after a devastating shelling onslaught levelled much of the city but delivered Kiev its biggest success of the campaign.

The self-proclaimed mayor of Slavyansk confirmed to AFP that insurgents had abandoned the rustbelt city of 120,000. A local resident said by phone that barricades once manned by the camouflage-clad gunmen stood abandoned since the early morning.

Images posted on YouTube showed helmeted troops carrying dozens of grenade launchers out of the barricaded Slavyansk city hall building as the blue-and-yellow national banner streamed under a blazing blue sky.

Kiev’s ability to win back Slavyansk – home to one of the country’s biggest weapons storage facilities that fell to the insurgents in early April – marks a key turning point in three months of low-scale warfare that has threatened the very survival of the ex-Soviet state.

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