An APC bearing the Ukrainian flag drives past a burned APC of pro-Russian militants, outside Nickolayevka, a small eastern Ukrainian city near Slavyansk, on July 5, 2014. (AFP/Genya Savilov)
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Resurgent government forces hoisted the Ukrainian flag over pro-Russian rebels' main stronghold Slavyansk after a shelling onslaught leveled much of the city but delivered Kiev the biggest success of its campaign.Rebels also withdrew to Gorlivka, a city of 260,000, about 50 kilometers southeast of Slavyansk, according to Interior Minister Arsen Avakov.The self-styled deputy prime minister of the separatist Donetsk Republic, Andrei Purgin, said about 150 wounded rebels from Slavyansk would be treated at Donetsk hospitals, Interfax-Ukraine agency said.Interior Minister Avakov said the withdrawal was led by senior militia commander Igor Strelkov -- alleged by Kiev to be a colonel in Russia's GRU military intelligence unit.Relentless artillery and sniper fire across a dozen blue-collar cities and towns have since claimed more than 470 lives and left Western leaders frustrated by repeated mediation failures.Uneasy EU leaders are hoping that a firm promise by Putin not to meddle in Ukraine can take pressure off the 28-nation bloc to adopt punitive steps that could damage their own strong energy and financial ties with Russia.
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