After Ukraine’s 2014 revolution and reorganization of its government, several of the southeastern regions of Ukraine took up arms against the new government. These regions of primarily Russian-speaking Ukrainians, collectively termed the “Donbass,” feel that the new government of Ukraine does not represent the people, and so they have attempted to set up their own, separate government. Here are 10 facts about the War in Donbass, to help raise awareness around the current conflict:
- The war in Donbass has claimed about 10,000 lives since it began in 2014, between the forces of the new government and the pro-Russia separatists in Donbass.
- Though the Russian government continues to deny claims that it began the war in the Donbass, Russia has been providing supplies and arms to the separatists for years. Considering Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, Ukrainians fear that they are next on Russia’s list.
- Roughly 100,000 professional soldiers and volunteer combatants are scattered around the “gray zone” that exists between the opposing sides’ territories.
- The U.N. High Commissioner of Refugees reports that over 1.6 million Ukrainians have been displaced by the fighting, most of them moving away from the fighting towards Kiev. Russia reports that as many as twice that number have similarly fled the fighting eastwards into Russia.
- A peace deal, known as Minsk II, was agreed upon and signed by both sides in Minsk, Belarus in 2015, but the implementation of said deal has been a disaster. Neither Russia nor the new Ukrainian government wants to admit responsibility for the conflict, so the process of peace has stalemated.
- During the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, many Ukrainians had hope that the new president would be tough on Russia’s involvement in Ukraine and would provide aid for the people in the war zones. The election of President Trump – and his seemingly pro-Russia leaning – has led to much discouragement and disappointment that the aid they counted on is not forthcoming.
- Experts have come to believe that the conflict – which has never been an official war between Ukraine and Russia – will only end if Russia concedes a defeat in the Donbass – an outcome many consider highly unlikely – or if Russia ramps up into a full-scale invasion of the Ukraine.
- To that end, Russia has been quietly moving to improve its military infrastructure by creating new divisions that can be rapidly expanded should it mobilize its forces, as well as deploying existing forces along the Ukrainian border.
- In mid-September, Russian president Vladimir Putin stated that he was open to allowing U.N. peacekeepers into the separatist areas of east Ukraine, though the Ukrainian government insists that Russian forces not be among said peacekeepers.
- The U.S. envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, said in late September that the U.S. is against working with Russia to bring in the U.N. peacekeeping forces, as it would only further destabilize the country. Volker also stated that he believes Russia and the separatists are finally willing to come to the table with a resolution to the conflict.
The war in the Donbass is a highly complex and constantly evolving situation, and these 10 facts only serve to summarize some of the more recent developments and how they affect the overarching conflict.
– Erik Halberg