"Sloviansk had been considered a focal point of the rebellion, and was the military centre of the self-declared separatist People's Republic of Donetsk."
Kiev, July 7 - Thousands of pro-Russian separatists Sunday gathered at a rally in regional capital Donetsk after government forces retook some of their main strongholds in eastern Ukraine, media reports said.
There were signs that rebels from Slovyansk were falling back on Donetsk to continue the resistance. Igor Girkin, the military commander of Slavyansk, told the Russian agency Life News that he had arrived in Donetsk, leading British daily the Guardian reported.
The separatist leader Pavel Gubarev read out a message from Girkin to the crowds in Donetsk, in which he compared the flight from Slavyansk to the decision by the Russian army to abandon Moscow in 1812. Without that, he said, Russia would not have defeated Napoleon and marched on Paris.
We will continue the combat operations and will try not to make the same mistakes that we made in the past.
Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko said the recapture of the rebels' stronghold of Sloviansk Saturday was of huge symbolic importance.
But, according to BBC, he warned it was too early for celebrations.
Despite recent losses, the rebels still hold the regional capitals of Donetsk and Luhansk and other key areas.
Sloviansk had been considered a focal point of the rebellion, and was the military centre of the self-declared separatist People's Republic of Donetsk.
The rebels said they had staged a tactical retreat to Donetsk, the main city in the region.