Ukrainian troops have retaken the strategically-important city of Lysychansk in eastern Ukraine, as they press on with their offensive to stamp out a pro-Russian rebellion.
“Ukrainian forces have raised the flag over the town council in Lysychansk,” the presidency said in a statement late on Thursday.
Operations were continuing to drive the remaining insurgents out of the town, the statement said.
Lysychansk – a city of around 105,000 about 90 kilometres northwest of the rebel stronghold of Lugansk – was seized by separatists in early April at the start of a bloody insurgency that has now claimed the lives of 1000 people, including the nearly 300 on board downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.
The government offensive against the rebels has made significant progress since rebels unexpectedly fled a string of key towns earlier this month.
Government forces say they are now closing in on the major cities of Lugansk and Donetsk, where the bulk of the insurgent fighters have dug in and pledged to fight to the death.
Meanwhile President Petro Poroshenko asked parliament to pass a vote of confidence in the government on Friday after the shock resignation of premier Arseniy Yatsenyuk piled political uncertainty on to the crisis wracking the country.
“I hope that the strong emotions will calm down and be trumped by cold reason and a sense of responsibility and that the entire Ukrainian cabinet will continue its work,” Poroshenko said in a statement released late on Thursday.
Yatsenyuk quit in protest Thursday after the ruling European Choice coalition collapsed following the withdrawal of several parties, a move that paved the way for long-awaited parliamentary polls to be announced.
Ukraine’s cabinet on Friday elevated Deputy Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman – who has been co-ordinating Kiev’s response to the downing of Malaysian flight MH17 in east Ukraine – to the post of acting premier.
Pro-Western Yatsenyuk – who helped steer the country through upheaval since the ouster of Kremlin-backed leader Viktor Yanukovych in February – lashed out at the decision to pull the plug on the coalition as Kiev is struggling to end a bloody separatist insurrection tearing apart the east.
The break up of the parliamentary majority gives Poroshenko – who was elected in May – the right over the next month to announce a fresh parliamentary election, which has been on the cards since Yanukovych’s toppling.