Ukraine Recaptures Slovyansk and Poroshenko Claims "Symbolic" Victory Over Separatists

A stronghold of Ukraine separatists was retaken by the country's own soldiers on Saturday, leading Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko to declare a "symbolic" victory in the conflict. The eastern city of Slovyansk had been the center of the fighting and a kind of home base for rebels before the Ukraine flag was again flown over its City Hall over the weekend. The Washington Post reports that until its recapture, the city looked like one of the rebels' most assuredly claimed cities.

In a speech, Poroshenko said the fighting wasn't over but that the win was an important one, according to the BBC.

This is not a complete victory yet, and it is not the time for fireworks displays. But the cleansing of Slovyansk from gangs who are armed to the teeth is of huge symbolic importance. This is the start of a turning point in the fight against the militants.

The country has been fighting off rebels since a separatist movement grew in power after Russia claimed the Crimean peninsula as its own this spring. That (pretty much illegal) annexation followed the abrupt departure of Ukraine's former president Viktor Yanukovych, who fled to Russia and asked the country to send troops to Crimea.

Then he later awkwardly apologized in an interview with the Associated Press.

I was wrong. I acted on my emotions. ... Crimea is a tragedy, a major tragedy.
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A little too little, too late there, Yanukovych.

Petro Poroshenko, a billionaire chocolate tycoon (really) who was elected in late May, has been working to try and oust the separatists since he was voted in. He said as much in his acceptance speech, according to The New York Times.

The first steps of our team at the beginning of the presidential work will be to put an end to war, to put an end to chaos, to end disorder, and to bring peace to the land of Ukraine — united, unitary Ukraine.

The fact that Poroshenko mentioned the separatists were "armed to the teeth" in his speech was an important one, because it may have been a nod to the presumed help Russia's been giving the separatists during the conflict.

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The pro-Russian separatists were rumored to have been heavily aided by Russian forces. Some photos of the separatists were at times even matched with those of secret Russian soldiers, as were some of their equipment, but Russia repeatedly denied that it had any hand in the separatist movement in Ukraine.