Ukrainian authorities: Separatists cleared from 2 eastern cities
July 7, 2014 -- Updated 1039 GMT (1839 HKT)
- Security forces cleared Slovyansk of militants, President's office says
- Prime Minister's office: Eastern city of Kramatorsk is cleared of separatists
- It's unclear to what extent the Ukrainian army has control of the towns
- Reports come days after Ukraine began military operations in the east
Kiev, Ukraine (CNN) -- Ukrainian security forces cleared pro-Russian separatists out of two eastern cities Saturday -- significant developments, though hardly conclusive, in the effort to bring unity and stability to the European nation.
The Ukrainian flag was raised Saturday over Slovyansk and Kramatorsk, a pair of flashpoint cities that have been strongholds of groups advocating independence from the Kiev-based national government for months.
President Petro Poroshenko's officed announced Saturday that separatists had left Slovyansk.
Clearing this key city was very difficult, since militants hid inside residential buildings and other facilities where civilians are, according to Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for Ukraine's National Defense and Security Council.
Strikes resume as Ukraine cease-fire ends
A new era for Ukraine
Poroshenko: Ready for peace deal
Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said most of the militants had left.
"They are running. This morning intelligence suggests that (separatist militant leader Igor) Girkin and a significant number of fighters have fled Slovyansk. ... Some remain. Rest going to Gorlovka," he wrote.
Pavel Gubarev, a leader of the militants, confirmed that Igor Girkin has fled Slovyansk with many other leaders toward the main city of Donetsk. The separatists vowed to continue their fight.
Later Saturday, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk's office announced that the eastern city of Kramatorsk was also free of separatists.
Videos posted to social media showed the Ukrainian flag being raised about Kramatorsk.
These reports come days after Ukrainian forces began military operations in the east of the country, marking a definite end to a unilateral cease-fire in place for 10 days.
The speaker of Ukraine's Parliament, Oleksandr Turchynov, told lawmakers the government's "anti-terror operation" against pro-Russia separatists had been "renewed."
Ukrainian armed forces have been attacking "terrorists' bases," authorities said.
Poroshenko had said his country would not renew a cease-fire with the separatists, vowing instead to "attack and liberate our land."
Russia and Ukraine have been at odds since late last year, when former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych refused to sign a cooperation agreement with the European Union, setting off nationwide protests.
The deadly protests led to Yanukovych's ouster, the loss of Crimea to Russia and a pro-Russia separatist rebellion.
READ: Ukraine begins military offensive as cease-fire ends
READ: Ukrainian President lets cease-fire expire, vows to 'liberate our land'
READ: Putin wishes Obama happy July Fourth, calls for closer ties
Today's five most popular stories
Part of complete coverage on
October 3, 2014 -- Updated 0751 GMT (1551 HKT)
Reza Sayah looks into why thousands of Ukrainians have left their old lives to volunteer to fight.
October 14, 2014 -- Updated 2048 GMT (0448 HKT)
CNN's Ralitsa Vassileva speaks to The New Republic's Linda Kinstler about Putin's motives with Ukraine and China.
September 24, 2014 -- Updated 1436 GMT (2236 HKT)
President Barack Obama speaks at the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly.
September 9, 2014 -- Updated 1258 GMT (2058 HKT)
Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 broke apart in the air after it was hit by a burst of "high-energy objects" from outside, a preliminary report by Dutch aviation investigators said Tuesday.
September 9, 2014 -- Updated 1134 GMT (1934 HKT)
"There were many scenes that defied logic," writes OSCE spokesman Michael Bociurkiw, who was one of the first international observers to arrive at the site.
September 3, 2014 -- Updated 1611 GMT (0011 HKT)
On a country road in eastern Ukraine, a scene of bucolic tranquility was suddenly interrupted by the aftermath of carnage.
September 2, 2014 -- Updated 2019 GMT (0419 HKT)
In the city of Donetsk, the devastation wrought by weeks of fighting between pro-Russia rebels and Ukrainian forces is all too apparent.
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 0000 GMT (0800 HKT)
CNN's Diana Magnay reports from the front lines in the Ukrainian conflict.
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 1126 GMT (1926 HKT)
A few miles south of the town of Starobeshevo in eastern Ukraine, a group of men in uniform is slumped under a tree.
August 23, 2014 -- Updated 1343 GMT (2143 HKT)
A shopkeeper's mutilated body, relatives' anguish, homes destroyed ... this is Donetsk.
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 1112 GMT (1912 HKT)
A 20-minute drive from Kiev takes you to a neighborhood that feels more like Beverly Hills than central Ukraine.
November 20, 2014 -- Updated 1412 GMT (2212 HKT)
Photos illustrate the ongoing crisis in Ukraine as fighting continues to flare in the region.
July 31, 2014 -- Updated 1631 GMT (0031 HKT)
Future imports, exports between the EU and Russia are now banned -- but existing contracts continue.
July 20, 2014 -- Updated 1540 GMT (2340 HKT)
Some contend that larger weapons have come into Ukraine from Russia.
Learn more about the victims, ongoing investigation and the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 0925 GMT (1725 HKT)
The downing Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 put the pro-Russia rebels operating in Ukraine's eastern region center stage.