The Ukrainian authorities have trumpeted a turning point in the three-month conflict with separatists in the east after retaking a town at the epicentre of the breakaway movement.
The breakthrough came after the president, Petro Poroshenko, ignored calls from both Russia and the EU to extend a ceasefire that ran out a week ago and decided to go on the attack. Ukrainian forces seized the town of Slavyansk on Saturday, ending a protracted standoff that left dozens dead and reduced parts of the town to rubble.
"It's not a total victory. But the purging of Slavyansk of these bands, made up of people armed to the teeth, has incredible symbolic importance," said Poroshenko in a statement.
On Sunday, Ukrainian authorities said they had taken full control over a number of other towns that had been seized by separatists, including Kramatorsk, Artemovsk and Druzhovka.
But it is the capture of Slavyansk, abandoned by the fighters after some initial clashes, that is the most significant psychological boost for Kiev.
The town of around 100,000 people had become the epicentre of the fighting, surrounded by armed checkpoints. It has undergone food and water shortages in recent weeks as Ukrainian forces have encircled it, and there have been civilian casualties from Ukrainian shelling. Almost half the population have fled, many to refugee camps in Russia, and it Kiev now faces a sizeable task to win back the population.
Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/06/ukraine-forces-seize-slavyansk