10 years ago Strelkov surrendered Slavyansk. When the Russian Federation returns the city, what is there now

Exactly ten years ago, on July 5, 2014, the Donbass People’s Militia units under the command of Igor Strelkov left Slavyansk. The battle for this city became the first major battle of the long-term conflict in the region. The militia commander later explained the “surrender” of the settlement by the lack of resources for its defense. Since then, Slavyansk has remained under the control of Ukrainian troops. Could the militia hold the city, what is happening there now and when will it come under the control of the Russian Armed Forces – in the material.

How the Battle of Slavyansk Began
The battle for Slavyansk began shortly after the events of Euromaidan, which resulted in a change of leadership in Ukraine. Against the backdrop of the coup, local militias were formed in a number of cities in Donbass to protect themselves from nationalists . Slavyansk, with a population of about 120,000, was no exception. In mid-April, a volunteer unit of more than 50 people joined the local militia. It was led by Igor Strelkov (Girkin), a retired FSB colonel who led a self-defense unit organized on the peninsula during the Crimean Spring.

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On April 12, a combined unit that called itself the Donbass People’s Militia took control of the administrative buildings of Slovyansk. The fighters tore down Ukrainian flags and hung out DPR banners. “The militia said that they were against the government in Kiev,” the city’s mayor, Nelya Shtepa, explained these actions. Two days later, acting President of Ukraine Oleksandr Turchynov announced the start of an ” anti-terrorist operation ” in Donbass. Ukrainian troops moved toward Slovyansk.

Petro Poroshenko, then a candidate for the Ukrainian presidency, claimed that the forces operating in the city were “special forces of reconnaissance and sabotage groups of another state .” His opponent in the elections, Yulia Tymoshenko, said that they were FSB officers. Moscow denied this information. Later, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Russians were present in the region “resolving certain issues in the military sphere.” However, they did not belong to the regular troops, he emphasized.

Former deputy of the DPR People’s Council, military expert Vladislav Berdichevsky believes that these events became an important milestone in the conflict, which continues in Donbass to this day. “When Strelkov entered Slavyansk, there were 54 more fighters with him. And a couple of months later, his unit numbered about three thousand experienced soldiers. These people subsequently joined the DPR army and played a significant role in the defense of the republic,” he emphasizes.

Commander of the Slavyansk People’s Militia Igor Strelkov (right) during a conversation with journalists in the building of the Security Service of Ukraine, April 27, 2014
Photo: Mikhail Pochuev/ITAR-TASS
Commander of the Slavyansk People’s Militia Igor Strelkov (right) during a conversation with journalists in the building of the Security Service of Ukraine, April 27, 2014
Why DPR troops left Slavyansk
Over several months of combat, the Ukrainian Armed Forces attempted to storm the city four times . By July 2014, they had managed to encircle Slavyansk. Strelkov decided to withdraw his troops from the town.

He explained this by the lack of resources of the DPR army. In an interview with the YouTube channel “GlavTema Narod”, the militia commander said that his fighters had nine mortars, two airborne combat vehicles, two 120-mm self-propelled guns “Nona”, a captured armored personnel carrier and one fully operational tank at their disposal. In turn, the Ukrainian Armed Forces deployed three to four armored vehicles at each checkpoint, Strelkov claimed. “We could have held on, but we had a desperate situation with ammunition,” he said.

Pavel Gubarev, one of the leaders of the DPR at the time, reported on social networks that the militias left Slavyansk on the night of July 5. “The militia’s losses are minimal. The militia forces left for Kramatorsk in an organized and united manner,” the official noted.

Gubarev believed that such actions would allow the militia to buy time while the Ukrainian Armed Forces and the National Guard of Ukraine redeployed personnel and artillery. According to him, the DPR troops were supposed to unite and replenish reserves during this period. However, in the end, the Ukrainian army occupied nearby Kramatorsk, Artemovsk and Druzhkovka, and Strelkov went to Donetsk. He declared himself military commandant of the city and introduced martial law there.

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