Slovyansk struggles back after rebels are routed
SLOVYANSK, Ukraine (AP) — For the first time in three months, Alla Grebenkova says she can go out on the streets of this city in eastern Ukraine without fear of being recognized as Ukrainian.
“I lived in hell. It was complete chaos and lawlessness,” the 68-year-old teacher said of life in Slovyansk after it came under the control of pro-Russia separatists in April. “I was afraid to admit that I am Ukrainian. Finally, this absurdity has ended.”
The rebels fled Slovyansk, a city of 100,000 that had been their stronghold, over the weekend as Ukrainian troops mounted an offensive. They left behind a city heavily damaged by fighting and riven by vehemently differing views.
President Petro Poroshenko made a surprise visit to Slovyansk on Tuesday and announced that electricity was being restored after the city went weeks without power, water or gas. Its hospital was operating on electricity supplied by portable generators, and chief surgeon Arkady Glushchenko said Monday that gasoline for those critical machines was in danger of running out soon.
Poroshenko also promised that all schools would be repaired by the first day of classes on Sept. 1, saying children going to school would be “a symbol of peace.”
The government soldiers may have won the battle for the physical city but not yet for its people’s hearts and minds.