KIEV, April 25 (RIA Novosti) – The second phase of a special operation launched by Ukrainian troops against federalist protesters has begun, with the goal of completely encircling the protest stronghold of Slaviansk, the acting head of Ukraine’s presidential administration said Friday.
"In the framework of the anti-terrorist operation, the second phase was launched 20 minutes ago. The goal is to surround the city of Slaviansk completely, in order to isolate the problem. Currently the operation is ongoing,” Serhiy Pashynsky said.
Acting Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov announced Friday the special operation in the country’s southeast has not been suspended amid Russian military exercises near the Ukrainian border.
Earlier media reports said Ukrainian servicemen stopped the special operation following the announcement of the Russian military drills in response to the developing situation in southeastern Ukraine.
Federalization supporters in the eastern cities of Kharkiv, Donetsk, Gorlovka, Slaviansk and Kramatorsk have refused to recognize the legitimacy of the current Ukrainian government, demanding Crimea-style referendums on the status of their regions. In response to pro-federalization rallies, Kiev’s interim government has launched a special operation to crack down on the protesters.