Pushed from Slaviansk, Ukraine rebels barricade Donetsk

Pushed from Slaviansk, Ukraine rebels barricade Donetsk
# 07 July 2014 21:21 (UTC +04:00)

Baku-APA. Pro-Russian rebels erected new barricades on the streets of Donetsk on Monday, preparing to make a stand in the city of a million people after losing their bastion in the town of Slaviansk in the worst defeat of their three month uprising, Reuters.

Occasional bursts of gunfire could be heard in the distance from the center of Donetsk, where residents said they were now living in fear of a potential battle between government forces and the separatist gunmen now out in force.

Ukraine's richest man, Rinat Ahmetov, pleaded with the government on Monday not to bomb his home city. Local authorities say thousands of residents have left Donetsk, but most have nowhere to go.

The Kiev government has said it will act quickly to seize back more territory from the rebels after re-taking Slaviansk over the weekend in what President Petro Poroshenko called a turning point in the conflict.

Rebels retreating from Slaviansk, some driving armored vehicles flying Russian flags, drove 110 km (65 miles) south into Donetsk over the weekend.

About 1,000 of them held a bellicose rally in the central square on Sunday, and on Monday many were visible on the streets, having established checkpoints to check the documents of drivers.

Although most shops and businesses were still open, some were shut and residents spoke of their fear that government forces could soon attack.

"The atmosphere is very tense now, there is no prospect of a future. You go to sleep in alarm and waken up in alarm," said Konstantin, 28, a cook.

"The Kiev authorities promise to tighten a ring around Donetsk and meticulously clear it of fighters. I don't know what to believe in any more. Donetsk is bigger than Slaviansk but it seems to me it won't end with one single ring. All the same I have the impression the fighters will yield their positions."

The rebels' commander, a Muscovite using the name Igor Strelkov, was quoted by Interfax news agency as saying his men would fight for the city, which was "much easier to defend than little Slaviansk".

Strelkov's whereabouts were not immediately clear. Rebel sources said two other prominent local separatist leaders, Alexander Boroday and Denis Pushilin, were both in Russia.