SLAVIANSK, May 7 (RIA Novosti) – A period of calm continues in Ukraine’s beleaguered southeastern city of Slaviansk that is under siege by the country’s army, a RIA Novosti correspondent reported Wednesday.
The city’s self-defense forces are manning their positions, and no gunshots have been heard since the morning. Crowds of local residents are in the streets and families with children were going for walks. Some cafes and shops are open.
The correspondent visited a roadblock Wednesday near Kramatorsk, where the Ukrainian military is said to be letting small groups of civilians out of the besieged city after checking if they are carrying weapons.
The self-defense forces in Slaviansk did not confirm reports of a battle between Ukrainian militants and pro-federalization activists on the city’s outskirts. They also denied allegations that the Ukrainian army has been preventing people from fleeing Slaviansk.
Ukraine’s UNIAN news service earlier said a group of people had failed in an attempt to escape the eastern city Wednesday morning.
Ukrainian armed forces have been conducting special operations aimed at suppressing the movement of pro-federalization activists in the southeastern part of the country.
The federalists do not recognize the legitimacy of Kiev’s interim government and demand that the rioting regions of Donbass, including Donetsk, Slaviansk and Kramatorsk, as well as Luhansk, hold referendums to let people decide on the status of their regions.
Deadly clashes between pro-federalization supporters and Ukrainian security forces raged across the country’s east and south over the past weekend, killing dozens and injuring hundreds.
Local media reported on Tuesday that the Ukrainian army had deployed rocket artillery systems near the city of Slaviansk in preparation for an imminent attack on pockets of resistance held by pro-federalization activists.
Ukrainian militants began an offensive against federalists in Slaviansk late Tuesday night, according to media.