2014 pro-Russian unrest in Ukraine

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2014 pro-Russian unrest in Ukraine
Part of the Russo-Ukrainian War
2014 pro-Russian unrest in Ukraine.png
Map of unrest by region, indicating its peak severity
Date23 February – 2 May 2014 (2 months, 1 week and 2 days)
Location
Caused by Opposition to Euromaidan, success of the Revolution of Dignity and the pro-European outlook of the new government [1] [2]
Goals
Methods
Resulted in

From the end of February 2014, demonstrations by Russian-backed, [6] [7] [8] pro-Russian, and anti-government groups took place in major cities across the eastern and southern regions of Ukraine in the aftermath of the Euromaidan and the Revolution of Dignity, which resulted in the ousting of Russian-leaning President Viktor Yanukovych. The unrest, which was supported by Russian military and intelligence, [9] belongs to the early stages of the Russo-Ukrainian War. [10] [11] [12]

Contents

During its first phase [13] in February–March 2014, the Ukrainian territory of Crimea was invaded and subsequently annexed by Russia following an internationally unrecognized referendum, with the United Nations General Assembly voting in favor of Ukraine's territorial integrity. [14] Concurrently, protests by anti-Maidan and pro-Russian groups took place across other parts of eastern and southern Ukraine. Local separatists, some directed and financed by the Russian security services, [15] took advantage of the situation and occupied government buildings in Donetsk, Luhansk, and Kharkiv oblasts in early March 2014. The Ukrainian government was able to quickly quell this unrest, and removed the separatists by 10 March. [16]

In the second phase from April 2014, armed Russian-backed groups seized government buildings across Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, together known as the Donbas, and launched a separatist insurgency in the region. To suppress this insurgency, the Ukrainian government began what it called an "Anti-Terrorist Operation" (ATO), sending in the armed forces to quell the unrest. [17] Unrest in Kharkiv and Odesa oblasts did not escalate into full-scale armed conflict, although dozens of mostly pro-Russian protestors were killed. Order was restored in these regions with the cooperation of the local civil authorities, [18] though pro-Russian disturbances, such as bombings, continued throughout the year. [19]

Background

After the 2004 Orange Revolution, Russia launched a decade-long effort to restore its political influence in Ukraine by playing on existing domestic fault lines and undermining the central government. [20]

Despite a crackdown on political opponents in 2011–12 (including the arrest and imprisonment of two popular pro-European leaders and including a tightening of personal freedoms), the Verkhovna Rada (Ukrainian parliament) agreed in early 2013 to work towards fulfilling the requirements for joining the European Union, including legislative reform, protecting human rights, and releasing political prisoners. [21] [22] In response, Russia started pressuring Ukraine in August 2013 by applying customs regulations on imports from the country, [23] which culminated on 14 August 2013 with the Russian Custom Service halting goods coming from Ukraine. [24] This prompted politicians [25] and others [26] [27] [28] to view the move as the start of a trade war against Ukraine to prevent Ukraine from signing a trade agreement with the European Union.

Ukraine was then gridlocked by unrest when President Viktor Yanukovych refused to sign an association agreement with the European Union on 21 November 2013. [29] An organized political movement known as 'Euromaidan' demanded closer ties with the European Union and the ousting of Yanukovych. [30] This movement was ultimately successful, culminating in the February 2014 revolution, which removed Yanukovych from power following a majority vote in the Verkhovna Rada and led to the dismissal of his government. [31] [32] However, some people in largely Russophone eastern and southern Ukraine, the traditional bases of support for Yanukovych and his Party of the Regions, did not approve of the revolution, expressing their support for Russia instead. [33] [34]

The attendees of pro-Russian protests included Russian citizens from across the border who came to support the efforts of pro-Russian activists in Ukraine. [35] [36] Donetsk oblast governor Serhiy Taruta said that rallies in Donetsk included ex-convicts and others who travelled from Crimea. [37] Ukraine's police and border guards denied entry to more than 8,200 Russians between 4 and 25 March. On 27 March, National Security and Defence Council Secretary Andriy Parubiy said that between 500 and 700 Russians were being denied entry daily. [38]

Russia alleged that Ukraine's 2014 unrest was manipulated by the United States via proxy methods. Yanukovych had resisted economic reforms required by the IMF to make Ukraine more attractive to investors, and Russian government officials asserted that anti-Yanukovych opinion was fomented by the American National Endowment for Democracy. The interim government led by Oleksandr Turchynov then proceeded with the previously denied reforms, receiving a $14 billion loan from the IMF and extra funding via USAID. [39] [40]

Public opinion in Ukraine

A poll conducted by Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KIIS) from 8–18 February 2014 assessed support for union with Russia throughout Ukraine. It found that, overall, 12% of those polled favoured union with Russia. [41] 68.0% said that Ukraine should remain independent and maintain friendly relations with Russia.

Support for a union between Russia and Ukraine was found to be much higher in certain oblasts:

Another Kyiv International Institute of Sociology poll the following April, of all of the oblasts of southern and eastern Ukraine except Crimea (which had already been annexed by Russia by that point) found majority opposition to secession from Ukraine and annexation by Russia in all of these oblasts—albeit only a slight majority in opposition to this in the Donbas (Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts). [42]

Opposition to secession from Ukraine and annexation by Russia (the combined percentage for the people opting for the options of "Rather, no" and "Certainly, no, I don't") had these percentages in various southern and eastern Ukrainian oblasts: [42]

In an opinion poll conducted from 14 to 26 March by the International Republican Institute, 26–27% of those polled in southern and eastern Ukraine viewed the Euromaidan protests as a coup d'état. [43] Only 5% of respondents in eastern Ukraine felt that Russian-speakers were 'definitely' under pressure or threat. 13% of respondents in southern Ukraine and 22% in eastern Ukraine viewed Russia's actions in Crimea as protecting Russian-speaking citizens of Ukraine, with 37% and 30% viewing them as invasion and occupation.

Euromaidan demonstration in Kyiv, January 2014 Euromaidan in Kiev 2014 002.jpg
Euromaidan demonstration in Kyiv, January 2014

In the poll, 22% of those in southern Ukraine, and 26% of those in eastern Ukraine, supported the idea of federalization for the country; 69% of southerners and 53% of easterners supported Ukraine remaining as a unitary state; and only 2% of southerners and 4% of easterners supported separatism. [43] 59% of those polled in eastern Ukraine would have liked to join the Russian-led customs union, while only 22% were in favour of joining the European Union. 37% of southerners preferred to join this customs union, while 29% were in favour of joining the EU. 90% of those polled in western Ukraine wanted to enter an economic union with EU, while only 4% favoured the customs union led by Russia. Among all the Ukrainians polled overall, 34% favoured joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, while 44% were against joining it. In eastern Ukraine and southern Ukraine, only 14% and 11% of the respondents respectively favour joining NATO, while 67% and 52% oppose joining it. 72% of people polled in eastern Ukraine thought that the country was going in the wrong direction, compared with only 36% in western Ukraine. [43]

A poll conducted by the Donetsk Institute of Social Research and Policy Analysis analysed the identities of Donetsk inhabitants. [44] While support for separatism was low, just over a third of polled Donetsk inhabitants identified themselves as "citizens of Ukraine". More preferred "Russian-speaking residents of Ukraine" or "residents of Donbas". [44] The same poll determined that 66% of Donetsk residents that were polled supported remaining in a unified Ukraine, while 18.2% supported joining Russia, and 4.7% supported independence. [45] A second poll conducted from 26 to 29 March showed that 77% of residents condemned the takeover of administrative buildings, while 16% supported such actions. Furthermore, 40.8% of Donetsk citizens supported rallies for Ukraine's unity, while 26.5% supported pro-Russian rallies. [46]

In another research poll conducted 8–16 April by KIIS, a vast majority disapproved of the seizure of administrative buildings by protesters. [47] Over 50% of those polled in southern and eastern Ukraine considered acting President Oleksandr Turchynov to be illegitimate. Most of those polled in southern and eastern Ukraine believed that the disarmament and disbandment of illegal radical groups is crucial to preserving national unity. 19.1% of those polled in southern and eastern Ukraine believed that Ukraine should be an independent state, 45.2% were for an independent state but with decentralization of the power to the regions, but most felt Russia and Ukraine should share open borders without visa restrictions; 8.4% were in favour of Ukraine and Russia uniting into a single state. 15.4% said they favoured secession of their region to join the Russian Federation, and 24.8% favoured Ukraine becoming a federation. Most of those polled said they found nothing attractive about Russia, but those who did, did so for economic, and not cultural reasons. Those polled in southern and eastern Ukraine were generally split on the legitimacy of the present government and parliament, but a majority in all regions agreed that deposed president Viktor Yanukovych was not the legal president of the country. In all regions but the Donbas, pro-Euromaidan oligarch Petro Poroshenko dominated preliminary election polls.

Anti-Maidan in Kyiv, 14 December 2013 Kyiv Ukraine 'Antimaidan' 14.12.2013 002.JPG
Anti-Maidan in Kyiv, 14 December 2013

A comprehensive poll released on 8 May by the Pew Research Centre surveyed opinions in Ukraine on the subject of the unrest. [48] The poll was taken after the annexation of Crimea, but prior to the clashes in Odesa on 2 May. [48] 93% of westerners and 70% of easterners polled said that they wanted Ukraine to remain united. [48] Despite international criticism of the 16 March referendum on Crimean status, 91% of the Crimeans polled thought that the vote was free and fair, and 88% said that the Ukrainian government should accept the results. [48]

Anti-Maidan

During the Euromaidan revolution there were widespread reports that pro-Yanukovych and pro-Russian 'anti-Maidan' protesters were paid for their support. [49] [50] [51] [52] Oleksiy Haran, a political scientist at Kyiv Mohyla Academy in Kyiv stated that: "People at anti-Maidan stand for money only. The government uses these hirelings to provoke resistance. They won't be sacrificing anything". [53] Russian leader of the extremist Eurasian Youth Union Oleg Bakhtiyarov was arrested for, in part, recruiting rioters for US$500 each to assist in the storming of government buildings. [38] On 13 April, the Internal Affairs Ministry stated that recruiters were found to be paying $500 to take part in the attacks, and roughly $40 to occupy buildings. [54]

Reports of paid protesters were supported by Party of Regions member Volodymyr Landik, [55] the First Deputy Prime Minister Vitaliy Yarema, [56] [ dubious ] journalist Serhiy Leshchenko, [57] and a report released by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. [58]

Media portrayal

Russian and Ukrainian sources differed greatly in the way they portrayed the pro-Russian demonstrators. [59] Militants who took over government buildings in the Donetsk Oblast were consistently labeled as "separatists" and "terrorists" by the Ukrainian government and the western media,[ citation needed ] whilst Russian media and officials referred to the protesters as "supporters of federalization". [59] Russian media and the militants themselves referred to the Ukrainian transitional government in Kyiv as the "Bandera junta" (in reference to the Ukrainian nationalist Stepan Bandera) and also as "nationalist" and as "fascist". [60] [61] Russian news broadcasts also featured claims of foreign involvement on the side of the Ukrainian government. [62] In the Ukrainian media, the derogatory term "Colorado beetle" [63] was used for the pro-Russian demonstrators and militants, in reference to the Ribbon of St George they wore. [64] Starting in the Russian media, the wave of unrest came to be referred to in Russia and Russian controlled parts of Ukraine as the "Russian Spring", a reference to both the Prague Spring of 1968 and the Arab Spring of 2010–2011. [65] [66] [67] [68]

Timeline

Unrest by region

Crimea

Russian "little green men" during the seizure of Perevalne military base, 9 March 2014 2014-03-09 - Perevalne military base - 0162.JPG
Russian "little green men" during the seizure of Perevalne military base, 9 March 2014

Following the removal of Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych on 22 February 2014, various protests and counter-protests were held in Crimea, including by anti-Maidan Russian nationalists who sought the peninsula's annexation by Russia and by Crimean Tatars who supported Ukrainian unity, [69] [70] leading to a crisis in the region.

Beginning on 26 February, unidentified militants, [71] [72] [73] [74] [75] [76] [77] [78] [79] subsequently confirmed to be Russian troops by Vladimir Putin, [80] began to gradually take control of the Crimean Peninsula. During this time, the question of joining the Russian Federation was put to a referendum, which had an official turnout of 83 per cent and resulted in a 96% affirmative vote [81] but has been condemned by European Union, American, Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar officials and by the United Nations General Assembly as a violation of the Ukrainian constitution and international law. [81] [82] [83] On 17 March, the Crimean Parliament declared independence from Ukraine and asked to join the Russian Federation. [84] On 18 March, Russia and Crimea signed a treaty of accession of the Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol into the Russian Federation. [85] [86] On 21 March, the accession treaty was ratified and the establishment of two new constituent entities in the Russian Federation was marked by a 30 gun salute under an executive order of the Russian President. [87] The U.N. General Assembly passed a non-binding resolution by 100 to 11 votes declaring that the referendum was invalid and that the incorporation of Crimea into Russia was illegal. [88] [89]

Around 3,000 people had fled Crimea by April 1, and 80% of them were Crimean Tatars. [58] Teams from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) assisted internally displaced persons who have resettled from Crimea in western Ukraine in the Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast and the Chernivtsi Oblast. [90] The number of refugees, primarily Crimean Tatars, continued to rise, and by 20 May the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said that about 10,000 people had been displaced. [91]

Donetsk Oblast

Pro-Russian protest in Donetsk, 6 April 2014. Pictured are flags of the Donetsk People's Republic, the Russian Empire, and the Eurasian Youth Union. 2014-04-06. Protesty v Donetske 035.jpg
Pro-Russian protest in Donetsk, 6 April 2014. Pictured are flags of the Donetsk People's Republic, the Russian Empire, and the Eurasian Youth Union.

Pro-Russian protesters occupied the Donetsk regional state administration (RSA) building from 1 to 6 March, before being removed by the Security Service of Ukraine. [92] [93]

Pro-Russian protesters in Donetsk, 8 March 2014 2014-03-08. Miting v Donetske 015.jpg
Pro-Russian protesters in Donetsk, 8 March 2014

13 March was marked by violent clashes between pro-Maidan and anti-Maidan protesters in Donetsk. A large group of anti-Maidan protesters broke through a police cordon and began to attack a smaller pro-Maidan demonstration. [58] In interviews with OSCE monitors, bystanders described how a group of around thirty pro-Maidan protesters "were forced to seek shelter in a police bus that became surrounded by anti-Maidan attackers". [58] The windows of the bus "were smashed, and irritant gas was dispersed inside, forcing the group to exit the bus, where they were then subjected to beatings and verbal abuse". [58] A pro-Ukrainian protester was stabbed to death during the violence. [94] [95] A report by the OSCE said that "police forces" failed "to take adequate measure to protect the pro-Maidan assembly", and "could be observed treating the anti-Maidan protesters in a favourable manner". [58] After this day of violence, interviewees told the OSCE that residents of Donetsk had decided not to organize more peaceful pro-Maidan demonstrations, "out of fear for their safety". [58]

On Sunday, 6 April, pro-Russian protesters held a rally in Donetsk pushing for a referendum on independence. [96] A group of 1,000 protestors broke away from the crowd and stormed the RSA building, with the police offering little resistance. [97] They then occupied the building and raised the Russian flag over it while the people outside chanted "Russia, Russia". [96] 100 people proceeded to barricade themselves in the building. [96]

The separatists declared that if an extraordinary session was not held by officials, announcing a referendum to join Russia, they would declare unilateral control by forming a "People's Mandate" at noon on 7 April, and dismiss all elected council members and MPs. [98] [99] [100] The people who voted within the RSA were not elected to the positions they assumed. [101] According to the Information Telegraph Agency of Russia, the declaration was voted on by some regional legislators, however other reports say that neither the Donetsk city administration nor local district councils in city neighbourhoods delegated any representatives to the session. [102] [103] According to the Ukrainian government, the seizure of RSA buildings by pro-Russian forces was part of "a script" which was "written in the Russian Federation" to destabilize Ukraine, carried out by "about 1,500 radicals in each region who spoke with clear Russian accents". [104]

On 6 April, the leaders of the separatist group Donetsk Republic announced that a referendum, on whether Donetsk Oblast should "join the Russian Federation", would take place "no later than 11 May 2014." [105] Additionally, the group's leaders have appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin to send Russian peacekeeping forces to the region. [105] [106] The group has been banned in Ukraine since 2007. The group's leader, Andrei Purgin, had been arrested weeks prior on charges of separatism. [107] The political leader of the state was the self-declared People's Governor Pavel Gubarev, [108] a former member of the Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine, [109] who was also under arrest on charges of separatism. [110] [111]

In response to these actions, acting Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov vowed to launch a major counter-terrorism operation against separatist movements in the country's eastern regions. [112] Later that day, the SBU office in Donetsk was retaken by SBU Alpha Group. [113] [114] The Ukrainian special forces unit led by the Ukrainian vice prime minister for law enforcement, Vitaliy Yarema, that was supposed to restore control over the Donetsk RSA building, however, refused to storm it and remove the separatists. [97] Turchynov offered amnesty to the separatists if they laid down their arms and surrendered, and also offered concessions that included devolution of power to regions, and the protection of the Russian language in law. [115] [116] Many in Donetsk expressed disapproval toward the actions of the separatists. [117]

Government building seizures

Sloviansk city council under control of masked men armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles and RPG-26 rocket launchers 2014-04-14 Sloviansk city council - 2.jpg
Sloviansk city council under control of masked men armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles and RPG-26 rocket launchers

On 12 April, a group of masked militants, formed in Crimea and led by former officer of Russian security services Igor Girkin, [118] captured the executive committee building, the police department and SBU office in Sloviansk, a city in the northern part of the Donetsk Oblast. [119] Ukrainian Internal Affairs Minister Arsen Avakov labelled the gunmen "terrorists", and swore to use the Ukrainian special forces to retake the building. [120] [121]

Seizures of police stations and other government buildings by armed separatist groups also occurred in other cities in Donetsk Oblast, including Donetsk City proper, Kramatorsk, Druzhkivka, Horlivka, Mariupol and Yenakiieve. [122] [123] [124] Ukrainian transitional president Oleksandr Turchynov launched a full-scale 'anti-terror' military operation to reclaim the buildings. [123]

Vitaly Yarema said that Russian Special Forces units, including the 45th Parachute Guards Regiment usually stationed near Moscow, were operating on Ukrainian territory in the cities of Kramatorsk and Sloviansk. On 16 April, the number of Russian special forces troops was said to be 450. [125] [126]

Separatists block Ukrainian military near Sloviansk, April 2014 Civilians block ukrainian military near Slavyansk.jpg
Separatists block Ukrainian military near Sloviansk, April 2014

By 16 April, the 'anti-terror' operation being conducted by the Ukrainian government in Donetsk Oblast had hit some stumbling blocks. [127] Protesters seized Ukrainian armoured vehicles in Kramatorsk, and sent soldiers away in Sloviansk. [127] During the night of 16 April, about 300 pro-Russian protesters attacked a Ukrainian military unit in Mariupol, throwing petrol bombs. [128] Internal Affairs Minister Arsen Avakov said that troops were forced to open fire, resulting in the killing of three of the attackers. [128]

The Geneva Statement of 17 April did not result in the end of the government building occupations in Donetsk Oblast. Two pro-Russian groups in Mariupol said that they 'felt betrayed' by the action taken in Geneva. [90] A truce declared for Easter Sunday was broken by an attack upon a separatist checkpoint in Sloviansk, further inflaming tensions. [129]

The situation remained tense on 23 April, with occupation of government buildings ongoing throughout the region. OSCE monitors observed that the city administration building, SBU building, and police station in Sloviansk remained heavily fortified by armed groups of men with masks and automatic weapons. [130] The city remained quiet, with no protests occurring. However, the monitors believed that the city remained under heavy surveillance, both by people in uniforms and masks, but also by many persons in civilian clothing. One resident said that people in Sloviansk were afraid to discuss their opinions of the occupiers. [130]

Barricade in Sloviansk, 23 April 2014 Sloviansk standoff - 18-20 April 2014 - 04.jpg
Barricade in Sloviansk, 23 April 2014

On 24 April, Ukrainian forces made a series of 'probing attacks' into Sloviansk against the insurgents. The self-proclaimed separatist mayor of the city, Vyacheslav Ponomarev, declared in response that 'We will make Stalingrad out of this town'. [131] The Ukrainian government then stated on 25 April that it would 'fully blockade the city of Sloviansk', and continue with the 'anti-terror' operation. [132] Amid the increasing tensions, separatists in Sloviansk detained seven international monitors on an OSCE military verification mission in Ukraine, who had been travelling into the city on a bus, along with the bus driver and five accompanying Ukrainian soldiers. [133] [134] The journalists were being held at the occupied SBU building. [133] Access to the city remained unrestricted despite the supposed Ukrainian army blockade, with separatist barricades manned by fewer people then on previous days. [134] Local residents said that the separatist administration in Sloviansk provided no administrative services to citizens. [134]

Leaflets released by the Donetsk People's Republic were distributed on 26 April, notifying citizens of a referendum on the question of whether or not they supported the proclamation of "state sovereignty" by the Republic [135] to be held on 11 May. In the morning on the next day, two members of the OSCE special monitoring mission were held by a group of unarmed men from the Donbas People's Militia in Yenakiieve. [135] They were taken to the occupied city hall, questioned, and then released after a letter sent by the mission's office in Kyiv confirmed the credentials of the monitors. [135] A large pro-government rally in Donetsk city marched in protest against the violence in Donetsk Oblast, and the attempted assassination of Kharkiv mayor Hennadiy Kernes on 28 April. [136] [137] The rally was swiftly and violently broken up by separatists armed with baseball bats, iron rods, firecrackers and shields. [136]

Second counter-offensive

The barricade outside Donetsk RSA featuring anti-western slogans some of which read (in Russian):
<<Shame on Ukrainian churnalists, boycott Ukrainian media!>> (Russian: Pozor ukrainskim zhurnalistam, boikot ukrainskikh smi
)
<<Federation is not separatism!>> 2014-05-09. Den' Pobedy v Donetske 187.jpg
The barricade outside Donetsk RSA featuring anti-western slogans some of which read (in Russian):
  • «Shame on Ukrainian churnalists, boycott Ukrainian media!» (Russian: Позор украинским журналистам, бойкот украинских сми)
  • «Federation is not separatism!»

A new counter-offensive by government forces on Sloviansk during the early morning of 2 May resulted in the downing of two government helicopters, and casualties on both sides. [138] [139] As a result, Ukrainian forces gained control of all separatist checkpoints, and of half the city. [138] [140] President Oleksandr Turchynov said that many separatists were "killed, injured and arrested". [140] [141] In the early morning on the next day, the counter-offensive then targeted to Kramatorsk, and Andriivka in Donetsk Oblast  [ uk ]. [142] Serious fighting resulted in the recapture of the occupied buildings in Kramatorsk by government forces, and at least ten separatists were said to have been killed in Andriivka. [142]

All of the international military monitors who had been held in Sloviansk were released by Vyacheslav Ponomaryov on 3 May. [142] [143] On the same day, protesters in the city of Donetsk stormed and occupied the chairman of the regional government's private business office and the SBU building, smashing windows and ransacking files as an act of revenge for the clashes in Odesa. [144] [145]

Kramatorsk was reoccupied by militants on 4 May, and Sloviansk saw renewed fighting on 5 May, resulting in the deaths of four Ukrainian soldiers. [146] [147] Fierce fighting took place in Mariupol starting 5 May. [148] Posters plastered on the occupied city administration building read "OSCE get out" or "OSCE you cheat". [149] As part of the counter-offensive, government forces recaptured the building on 7 May, but then left it, allowing the separatists to quickly re-occupy it. [148]

Occupied buildings in Donetsk had been heavily fortified by 6 May, and Donetsk International Airport was closed to all traffic. [150] The regional television broadcasting centre remained occupied by about thirty camouflaged insurgents with AK-47s. [150] A BTR-70 was parked outside building, along with barricades made of sandbags and tyres. A similar presence was observed at the RSA building. [150]

On 7 May, Russian president Vladimir Putin asked the separatists to delay the planned 11 May referendum on the status of Donetsk. [151] Denis Pushilin, the leader of the Donetsk People's Republic, refused. [152] In response, Ukrainian transitional prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk referred to Putin's words "hot air", and vowed that the counter-offensive in Donetsk would continue. [152]

A large skirmish erupted in Mariupol on 9 May, when government troops launched an attack on a police station in the city, resulting in the killing of at least twenty people. [153] These were described by the Ukrainian government as "militants" and "terrorists", though some local residents said that they were unarmed protestors. [153] [154] [155]

Referendum

The disputed referendum on the status of Donetsk Oblast was held on 11 May. [156] [157] According to representatives of the Donetsk People's Republic, 89% voted in favour of self-rule, and 10% voted against. [156] Turnout was said to be 75%. [157] OSCE monitors did not observe the referendum, as the situation in Donetsk after the skirmish in Mariupol was said to be "volatile", forcing them to restrict their operations in the region. [158] After the results were announced, leader of the Republic Denis Pushilin said that "all Ukrainian military troops in the region would be considered occupying forces". [156] In response to the perceived weakness of the Ukrainian army, some Ukrainians who opposed the insurgents formed the "Donbas Volunteer Battalion", modeled on the Ukrainian partisan groups that fought against both the German Reich and the Soviet Union during the Second World War. [159]

Insurgent emplacement in Donetsk, also showing a road sign that points to major conflict areas: Sloviansk and Mariupol. 2014-05-08. Protesty v Donetske 008.jpg
Insurgent emplacement in Donetsk, also showing a road sign that points to major conflict areas: Sloviansk and Mariupol.

Steelworkers and security guards from Metinvest, along with local police, began joint patrols in the city of Mariupol on 15 May. [160] [161] These groups forced the insurgents out of the buildings that they had been occupying. [160] A representative of Mariupol supporters of the Donetsk People's Republic, Denis Kuzmenko, was party to a deal which led to this vacation of buildings by the insurgents, [162] but a local commander of those insurgents who had been occupying the building said that "someone is trying to sow discord among us, someone has signed something, but we will continue our fight", and that "everyone ran away". [160] Steelworkers could be seen removing barricades from the city centre, and also cleaning up the burnt city administration building. [161] By the morning of 16 May, Associated Press journalists could find no trace of the insurgents in Mariupol city centre. [160] On 16 May, however, it seemed that separatists were not banished from the city, as reporters from The Washington Post said that about a hundred pro-Russian activists gathered on the steps of the city administration building, and that the separatist flag continued to fly over it. [163]

Rinat Akhmetov, oligarch and owner of Metinvest, called for non-violent protests against the separatists in Donbas on 19 May. [164] In response to this call, cars gathered in front of the Donetsk RSA building and continually honked their horns. [165] OSCE monitors said that some elderly people threw stones and water bottles at the cars as they passed by the RSA. Another group of thirty people outside the RSA chanted the slogan "Akhmetov is an enemy of the people" while holding banners that said "Akhmetov is a thief and is a supporter of fascism" and "Are you a slave to Akhmetov?" [165]

The confederal state of Novorossiya was proclaimed by Pavel Gubarev on 22 May, incorporating both the Donetsk People's Republic and Luhansk People's Republic. [166] "New Russia" (Russian : Novorossiya) hearkens back to a term used by the Russian Empire to refer to modern eastern and southern Ukraine. A few days later, on 26 May, a heated battle broke out between separatist insurgents that had been in control of Donetsk International Airport, and Ukrainian government forces. [167] [168] Around fifty insurgents were killed in the fighting, which resulted in their losing control of the airport. [167] Chechen paramilitaries, along with others from Russia, fought Ukrainian forces during the battle. [169] According to Artur Gasparian, a member of the insurgent unit that had been holding the airport, the majority of the separatists' losses were due to friendly fire. [170] [171]

Members of the Vostok battalion, the pro-Russian insurgent group that fought Ukrainian forces at the airport, took control over the Donetsk RSA building on 28 May, and removed the leaders of the Donetsk People's Republic. [172] Participants in the action said that it was an "emergency measure" to halt "a sharp rise in looting and crime, as well as disorder within leadership". [167] They were seen clearing barricades and rubbish left by those previously in control of the building.

Continued fighting

Vostok Battalion members dismantling the barricade at Donetsk RSA on 3 June. 2014-06-03. Protesty v Donetske 015.JPG
Vostok Battalion members dismantling the barricade at Donetsk RSA on 3 June.

Fighting continued through the month of June. As part of Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko's fifteen-point peace plan, a frequently broken ceasefire spanned from 20 June until the 30th. [173] A renewed government offensive after the ceasefire broke down resulted in heavy losses for the separatists, forcing them to withdraw from northern Donetsk Oblast, including many cities that had been under their control since April, such as Sloviansk, Druzhkivka, Kostyantynivka, and Kramatorsk. [174] [175] [176] Heavy fighting continued in the following months, until the signing of the Minsk Protocol in early September, which established a ceasefire. [177]

Attacks on journalists

There were a number of attacks on members of the press by members of the separatists in Donetsk. On 10 April, protesters outside the Donetsk RSA attacked Belarusian journalists for speaking the Belarusian language, and not Russian; Ukrainian journalists were forced to speak Russian to avoid angering pro-Russian protesters. According to Kyiv Post , they also attacked reporters from Russia Today, but RT did not carry the story. [178] Days later on 12 April, a group of 150 people supported armed militants outside the police station in Sloviansk who were hostile to journalists, telling them to "go back to Kyiv." [179]

An unknown man set the car of the editor-in-chief of the News of Donbas on fire. The editor had been receiving anonymous threats from the separatists. [180] On 19 April, the offices of local newspaper Pro Gorod in Torez, 80 kilometres (50 mi) south-east of Donetsk, were set on fire. [181]

Separatists torched the offices of the newspaper Provintsia in Kostiantynivka on 23 April, after previously harassing newspaper staff and labeling them members of the 'Right Sector movement'. [182] [183] Stepan Chirich, a Belarusian reporter with the Russian NTV channel disappeared in Dnipropetrovsk Oblast. [183] Another journalist, Evgenii Gapich, a photographer for the Reporter newspaper from Ivano-Frankivsk disappeared in Horlivka, his whereabouts are unknown, but allegedly he has been held in detention by separatist forces in Sloviansk. [183] Furthermore, Simon Ostrovsky, a journalist with Vice News, was captured by unidentified people in uniform in Sloviansk, and released after four days. [183] British journalist Graham Phillips was taken captive by both the separatists, and the Ukrainian army. [184]

A report by Human Rights Watch criticized the Ukrainian government for "the serial arrests of Russian journalists in Ukraine". [185]

Luhansk Oblast

Protesters around a statue of Taras Shevchenko on Heroes Square in Luhansk, waving both Russian and Ukrainian flags, 1 March 2014 Russian spring (Luhansk 01.03.2014) 01.JPG
Protesters around a statue of Taras Shevchenko on Heroes Square in Luhansk, waving both Russian and Ukrainian flags, 1 March 2014

In protest against the proposed cancelling of the regional language law, the regional administration of Luhansk Oblast voted to demand that the Russian language be given official language status. They also demanded the stopping of the persecution of former Berkut officers, the disarming of Maidan self-defence units, and the banning of a number of far-right political organizations, like Svoboda and UNA-UNSO. In the event that the authorities failed to comply with the demands, the Oblast administration reserved the "right to ask for help from the brotherly people of the Russian Federation". [186]

Government buildings in Luhansk have been occupied multiple times. A peaceful pro-Maidan demonstration on Heroes Square, outside the Luhansk city administration building, was attacked by anti-Maidan counter-demonstrators on 9 March. [58] The attackers then stormed the building, and occupied it, but were swiftly removed by government forces. [58] [187] The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) local headquarters was occupied on 6 April, along with the SBU's armoury of over 300 machine guns. [188] Pro-Russian activists discussed plans for a "Luhansk Parliamentary Republic" on 8 April 2014. [189] 1,500 were involved in the building's occupation. [190] The occupiers referred to themselves as the Army of the South-East (Russian : Армия Юго-Востока). [191] [192] According to The Guardian, the personnel include former members of the Berkut special police. [191]

The mood remained tense in Luhansk on 14 April. [122] During the morning, up to 300 persons were observed at the entrance of the SBU building. [122] There has been no indication that pro-Russian demonstrators in Luhansk would enact the terms of the Geneva Statement on Ukraine, and demonstrations have continued. [193] Those occupying the SBU building told OSCE monitors on 20 April that they would demobilize once occupied buildings in Kyiv were vacated by Euromaidan supporters. [193] The monitors also encountered a roadblock near the village of Rayhorodka, in Novoaidar Raion. [194] It was manned by about ten people in civilian clothes, including the local Orthodox priest. They stated that they set up the roadblock on 14 April to protect their village from any separatist incursions. A commander of the Ukrainian army indicated that no incidents had occurred at the roadblock so far, but that unknown armed individuals had been seen approaching it in the night. [194]

A rally outside the SBU building to elect a 'people's government' in Luhansk occurred on 21 April. [194] [195] [196] At the rally, protesters called for an 11 May referendum on the status of Luhansk Oblast with three options: be part of a Ukrainian Federation, join the Russian Federation or remain part of a unitary Ukraine. Around 1,500 participants were observed at the peak of the rally. [194] The leaders of the rally said that they were not separatists, and sought a peaceful solution, which would allow Luhansk to remain within Ukraine. [194] [195]

The OSCE monitoring mission reported that the situation in Luhansk on 23 April was 'stable', and that the area around the occupied SBU building was 'quiet'. [130] The monitors met with representatives of a non-governmental organization that said they had been held captive for six hours within the building on 21 April, and that about 100 men in unmarked uniforms with machine guns were present inside it at the time. [130]

Escalation

Destroyed house in Donbas, 22 July 2014 Destroyed house in Donbass.jpg
Destroyed house in Donbas, 22 July 2014

Several hundred protesters that had gathered outside the occupied SBU building proclaimed the "Luhansk People's Republic" on 27 April. [197] [198] They demanded that Ukrainian government provide amnesty for all protesters, enshrine Russian as an official language, and hold a referendum on the status of the region. [197] They issued an ultimatum that stated that if Kyiv did not meet their demands by 14:00 on 29 April, they would launch an insurgency in tandem with that of the Donetsk People's Republic. [197] [199]

As these demands were not met, 2,000 to 3,000 protestors stormed the Luhansk RSA building on 29 April. [200] [201] Previously, only the SBU building had been targeted. The building was unprotected on the exterior, but a group of riot police confronted the protesters in an inner courtyard of the building. [202] A brief standoff resulted, but the police did nothing to stop the protesters. [202] A Russian flag was raised over the building. [201] Several other buildings, including a police station and the local prosecutor's office were later seized. [201] Twenty separatist gunmen fired machine guns at the police station to force the officers within to surrender. [203] President Oleksander Turchynov responded to the loss of the buildings by demanding the immediate resignation of police chiefs in Donetsk and Luhansk. [203] By 2 May, however, pro-Russian protesters occupying the city council and the television centre had left, and the prosecutors office was freed following negotiations between authorities and separatists. [138] [204]

The next day, however, separatist leader and self-proclaimed mayor of Luhansk Valeriy Bolotov announced the formation of a "South-Eastern Army" to march on Kyiv. [145] Bolotov also declared a state of emergency, introduced a curfew, a ban on political parties, and a mandate that local law enforcement officials must take an oath of allegiance to him. [145] In a video statement, he said "In case of not following this, you will be announced traitors of people of Luhansk and wartime measures will be taken against you". [205]

A GAZ Tigr heavy armoured vehicle emblazoned with the emblem of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia was seen parked outside the RSA building on 8 May, along with men in military gear and assault rifles. [206] [207] Whilst speaking to OSCE monitors, the Deputy Governor of Luhansk Oblast said that the "security situation in the region is deteriorating due to activities of the separatists and criminal gangs". [206] Members of the OSCE special monitoring mission were later stopped at an 'illegal' checkpoint near the village of Shchastya, and held for three hours before being released. [158]

Referendum

The disputed referendum on the status of Luhansk Oblast was held on 11 May. [156] [157] According to RIA Novosti, 96.2% voted in favour of self-rule. [208] Valeriy Bolotov, leader of the Republic, declared "martial law" on 22 May. [165] OSCE monitors said that around 70% of "shops, cafés and banks" were closed in Luhansk city centre. [165] Those shops that were still open were said to be sold out of some necessities, and fuel was not available. Police were entirely absent. [165]

The confederal state of Novorossiya was proclaimed by Pavel Gubarev on 22 May, incorporating both the Donetsk People's Republic and Luhansk People's Republic. [166] "Novorossiya" hearkens back to a term used by the Russian Empire to refer to modern eastern and southern Ukraine.

Explosions struck the RSA building in Luhansk on 2 June, killing eight people, and wounding twenty-eight. [209] [210] Russian media reported that the explosions were caused by an airstrike by Ukrainian government forces. Ukrainian government officials denied this, and said that the insurgents had fired an anti-aircraft missile at themselves. [209] The next day, the OSCE special monitoring mission said that based on "limited observation", the "strikes were the result of non-guided rockets shot from an aircraft". [211] [212] A CNN investigation found clear evidence that the detonations came from the air and the pattern of the craters suggested use of standard equipment on the Su-25, a ground-attack fighter, and the Su-27—both combat aircraft operated by Ukraine. [213] Analysis by RadioLiberty also concluded that "Despite Denials, All Evidence For Deadly Explosion Points To Kyiv". [214] Heavy fighting in the region continued over the following months, until the signing of the Minsk Protocol in early September, which established a ceasefire. [177]

Kharkiv Oblast

Protests were also held in Kharkiv Oblast, and the regional state administration building there was occupied multiple times.

Pro-Ukrainian protesters in Kharkiv, February 2014 2014. Khar'kov 011.jpg
Pro-Ukrainian protesters in Kharkiv, February 2014

Unrest first gripped Kharkiv city on 22 February 2014, when Euromaidan protesters occupied the Kharkiv regional state administration (RSA) building. [215] [216] Later that day, several thousand pro-Ukrainian protesters tried to topple a statue of Vladimir Lenin that stood opposite to the RSA building in Freedom Square. Several taxi drivers defended the monument, injuring several of the protesters. By the next day, several thousand pro-Russian protesters had gathered in the square to protect the statue. [215] They set up a perimeter fence around it. Then governor of Kharkiv Oblast Mykhailo Dobkin made a speech to the defenders of the statue, saying that the statue was "a symbol of our city... we will leave it here and we will defend it". [215] Local police kept Euromaidan and Anti-Maidan protesters apart until 1 March. [217] On that day, pro-Russian activists stormed the RSA building, assaulted the Euromaidan activists who had been occupying it, and raised the Russian flag over the building. [218] Some of the protesters were Russian citizens who had travelled to Kharkiv from Russia. [219] [220] According to the local media, 2,000 Russians were brought by buses with Russian number plates to Kharkiv to take part in the storming of the RSA building. [221] Russian activist organizations confirmed that they sent Russians to "peacefully protest" in Kharkiv. Police regained control of the building by evening on the same day, and replaced the Russian flag with that of Ukraine. [222] [223]

Demonstrations by pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian activists in Kharkiv continued throughout the month of March. These included pro-Russian gatherings of up to 5,000 people. [224] Despite this, the city remained relatively calm until 15 March, when two people were killed in a shootout between Ukrainian nationalists and pro-Russian activists. [225] [226] [227] On the next day, pro-Russian activists broke into a Ukrainian cultural centre in Kharkiv, removed books written in the Ukrainian language, and burned them on the street outside. [228]

Pro-Russian protesters in Kharkiv, 8 April 2014 KhOGA posle shturma Iaguarom 4.jpg
Pro-Russian protesters in Kharkiv, 8 April 2014

Pro-Russian protesters stormed and occupied the RSA building on 6 April. The next day, protesters in the occupied RSA building unilaterally declared independence from Ukraine as the "Kharkiv People's Republic". [229] Doubts arose about the local origin of the protesters after they initially stormed an opera and ballet theatre believing it was the city hall. [230] By 8 April, the RSA building had been retaken by Ukrainian special forces, and seventy protesters had been arrested. [231] 1,000 pro-Russian protesters returned to the RSA building on 13 April, and rallied around it, with some entering. [232] These protesters then holed up inside the building with Kharkiv mayor Hennadiy Kernes. Later in the day, Kernes declared his support for an autonomy referendum and amnesty for the arrested Kharkiv separatists. [233] At least fifty pro-government protesters, who had been holding concurrent demonstrations, were severely beaten in attacks by pro-Russian protesters. [232] [234] Gunshots and grenade explosions were heard. Videos showed three people covered with blood being held on the metro station stairs, and separatists coming up to them, kicking them and shouting "they are not humans!" [232]

According to a report by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) monitoring mission on 19 April, no protesters had been seen in front of the RSA building since 13 April. [122] The Kharkiv City Appeals Court ruled on 17 April that 43 of the 65 protesters arrested by authorities following the takeover of the RSA building on 8 and 9 April would remain in custody. [90] Sentences for another 16 were changed to house arrest. Three detainees were released on bail, whereas the three remaining had been earlier sentenced to house arrest. [90]

Kharkiv remained calm over the weekend of 19–20 April, though a small, peaceful pro-Russian protest was held on Freedom Square. [193] Demonstrations continued on Freedom Square, with 500 people gathering on 21 April to elect a "people's government". [194] Worsening economic conditions in Ukraine were cited by participants as an impetus for the demonstrations. [194] They called for the resignation of the city mayor and prosecutor as well as the return of Viktor Yanukovych. Vladimir Varshavsky was elected "people's governor". [194]

More peaceful rallies were held in the morning on 23 April, with both anti-government and pro-government demonstrations held in Kharkiv city centre. [130] Each rally was attended by around 400 people. [130] Around 150 anti-government protesters gathered outside the city council building on Constitution Square concurrently with the rallies. Later that day, over 7,000 residents held a rally in the same spot to support the unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine. [235] The situation overall in Kharkiv remained calm, though police remained on high alert. [130] A small group of riot police were seen guarding the RSA building on 25 April, though the police presence as a whole in the city appeared to be much reduced. [134]

Rival demonstrations by supporters and opponents of a unitary Ukrainian state occurred on 27 April in Kharkiv city. [135] This resulted in clashes between around 400 opponents and 500 to 600 supporters of the Ukrainian government. Police attempts to quell the unrest were not successful. [135]

Shooting of Hennadiy Kernes

The mayor of Kharkiv, Hennadiy Kernes, was shot in the back while cycling on 28 April 2014. [236] He was said to be in "grave, but stable" condition, [237] but later recovered, according to Televiziyna Sluzhba Novyn on 10 May 2014. [238] Kernes was known as a staunch opponent of the Euromaidan. However, he had also stated that he did not support the pro-Russian insurgency, and backed a united Ukraine. [237] Mykhailo Dobkin, a former governor of Kharkiv Oblast and potential Ukrainian presidential candidate, said "You want to know my opinion, they were shooting not at Kernes, but at Kharkiv", and said that the shooting was an attempt to destabilize what was otherwise a relatively calm region. [237]

Further protests

Pro-Russian signs around the statue bearing the words "Against vandalism", "Fascists, don't test the patience of Kharkiv citizens!", "Caution! Fascism is set free!" and "Banderites! REMEMBER - KHARKIV IS NOT YOUR TERRITORY." 2014. Khar'kov 017.jpg
Pro-Russian signs around the statue bearing the words "Against vandalism", "Fascists, don't test the patience of Kharkiv citizens!", "Caution! Fascism is set free!" and "Banderites! REMEMBER – KHARKIV IS NOT YOUR TERRITORY."
Ukrainian military roadblocks in Donetsk oblast, 8 May Ukrainian military roadblocks in Donetsk oblast.jpg
Ukrainian military roadblocks in Donetsk oblast, 8 May

Kharkiv returned to relative calm by 30 April, no rallies having been observed there by OSCE monitors. [200] A minor demonstration by about four-hundred separatists was held in Freedom Square on 4 May. [145] A notably increased police presence remained in and around Freedom Square. On the same day, a planned rally by pro-Ukrainian unity groups was cancelled due to concerns about potential clashes in the wake of the Odesa disaster. [145]

Demonstrations by "opponents of Ukrainian unity" with Russian and Soviet flags were held in front of the Russian and Polish consulates in Kharkiv city on 26 May. [168] These demonstrators initiated petitions that they said were signed by 1,500 people from Kharkiv, which called on the EU and Russia not to recognise the results of the 25 May Ukrainian presidential election. They also voiced opposition to the Ukrainian government's military operations against pro-Russian separatists in Donetsk Oblast. [168] Mayor Hennadiy Kernes returned to Kharkiv city on 16 June, after receiving medical treatment in Israel. [239] The city administration provided buses for around 1,000 people who came to greet him upon his return.

Demonstrations similar to the one that took place on 26 May continued throughout the month of June. One such demonstration took place on 22 June, with 800–900 people gathering on the 73rd anniversary of the German Reich's invasion of the Soviet Union. [240] The demonstrators voiced the same concerns about the Ukrainian government's military operations in the East, protesting against Ukraine's efforts to combat separatist insurgents in Donetsk Oblast. [240] Concurrently, around 1,000 people rallied for a ban on the Communist Party of Ukraine, and on pro-Russian demonstrations. [241] Some of the people participating in this rally approached the location of the aforementioned pro-Russian demonstration. A verbal confrontation ensued, involving participants of both rallies. [241] Police officers that had been escorting the pro-Ukrainian demonstrators dispersed the crowd. [241] Thirty activists from both groups were temporarily detained as a result. The chief of the Kharkiv Oblast branch of the Ministry of Internal Affairs said on 28 June that about 200 policemen had been fired since March for having been "in violation of the law", with many of them having "separatist views". [242] He also said that police intervention on 22 June had managed to "prevent slaughter", and that both Euromaidan and Anti-Maidan activists had been trying to "destabilize the situation". [242] Furthermore, Kharkiv Oblast governor Ihor Baluta wrote on his Facebook page that 314 "active separatists" had been arrested in Kharkiv since 6 April. [243] Another protest by about 300 Ukrainian unity activists took place on 22 July. [244] They gathered outside the RSA building with European Union, NATO, and Ukrainian flags, and said that they wanted to prevent the war in the Donbas region from spreading to Kharkiv Oblast. They demanded that gatherings of separatists and communists within Kharkiv city be prohibited. [244] An attempt was made to destroy an important bridge in the village of Hrushuvakha on 29 July. [245] The bridge was not damaged in the attempt, but Kharkiv RSA said that there were other plots to carry out "terrorist attacks" in Kharkiv Oblast.

The mayor of Kharkiv, Hennadiy Kernes, granted freedom of the city to two Russian citizens at a session of the city council on 6 August. [246] This concerned some people in the city, causing about one-hundred people to protest outside city administration building. [246] [247] Police restrained the protesters, who attempted to force their way into the building. Protesters and the police negotiated, and eventually five protestors were allowed into the city administration to voice their grievances. [246] Kharkiv remained calm for the next few days, until 10 August. [248] [249] On that day, about 150 people gathered outside the city administration and demanded an end to the government military operation in the Donbas region. [248] A counter-protest was also held, with about 300 people voicing their support for the government military opposition, calling for the dissolution of the city administration, and the dismissal of the mayor. [248] About one-hundred anti-Maidan-affiliated demonstrators gathered on Freedom Square to protest against corruption in Ukraine on 17 August. [250] One of the speakers at the protest said that the best way to fight corruption was to create a "local regional government", as they said this would eliminate the need to "bribe the ministers in Kyiv". A concurrent protest in the same square saw 250 pro-Euromaidan demonstrators voice their support for lustration and against oligarchy. [250] The pro-Euromaidan demonstrators also collected money for the Armed Forces of Ukraine, and for refugees fleeing the war in Donbas. [250] A Kharkiv court decision banned a planned 23 August joint rally of the Communist Party of Ukraine and the organization "South-East". [251] "South-East" itself was banned on 20 August, because it was deemed to be "a threat to the sovereignty of Ukraine and the security of its people" by a Kharkiv court. [252] About 500 people marched on 23 August in commemoration of the Day of the National Flag and the European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism; one of their demands was the dissolution of the city administration. [253] A peaceful gathering of Ukrainian unity activists was held outside the Russian consulate in Kharkiv on 28 August. [254] Around 400 people attended the demonstration. Participants said they were concerned about Russia's intervention in the war in Donbas. The demonstration was later dispersed by the police after stun grenades were thrown at the consulate. [254]

One of the largest gatherings of supporters of Ukrainian unity in many months took place in Kharkiv on 28 September. [255] [256] At about 14:30, a diverse[ specify ] crowd of 2,000 people met in front of the Opera House. The demonstration was led by the Azov paramilitary battalion. [256] The crowd then marched to Freedom Square, where there was a monumental statue of Vladimir Lenin. The statue had been a rallying point for pro-Russian protesters earlier in the year. [255] By this time, the crowd had reached 5,000 people. The statue of Lenin was pulled down by the pro-Ukrainian demonstrators at 22:40, shortly after oblast governor Ihor Baluta signed an order to dismantle the statue. [255] In late October, Governor Baluta admitted that he thought that the majority of the city's residents had not wanted the statue removed, but said "there was hardly any protest afterward either, which is quite telling". [216]

From early November until mid-December, Kharkiv was struck by seven non-lethal bomb blasts. Targets of these attacks included a rock pub known for raising money for Ukrainian forces, a hospital for Ukrainian forces, a military recruiting centre, and a National Guard base. [257] According to SBU investigator Vasyliy Vovk, Russian covert forces were behind the attacks, and had intended to destabilize the otherwise calm city of Kharkiv. [258]

Odesa Oblast

RussianSpringOdessa20140420 02.JPG
Pro-Russian Odesskaya Druzhina militants at a rally in Odesa, 20 April 2014.
Pro-Ukrainian demonstration in Odesa, 2 March.

Beginning on 1 March, demonstrations began in Odesa Oblast. Police reported that 5,000 participated in a pro-Russian demonstration in the city of Odesa on that day. [259]

Rolling demonstrations continued, and on 3 March 2014, 200–500 demonstrators with Russian flags attempted to seize the Odesa Regional State Administration building. [260] [261] [262] They demanded that a referendum on the establishment of an "Odesa Autonomous Republic" be held. [261]

An 'Odesa People's Republic' was allegedly proclaimed by an internet group in Odesa Oblast on 16 April. [263] Members of the Odesa anti-Maidan protest group later swore that they made no such declaration, and the leaders of the group said they had only heard about it through the media. [264] The OSCE monitoring mission in Ukraine later confirmed that the situation in Odesa remained calm. [122]

Local anti-Maidan and pro-Euromaidan leaders in Odesa Oblast voiced scepticism about the Geneva Statement on Ukraine on 20 April. The anti-Maidan leaders insisted that they aimed not at secession, but at the establishment of a wider federated state called 'Novorossiya' within Ukraine. [193]

A hand grenade was thrown from a passing car at a joint police-Maidan self-defence checkpoint outside Odesa on 25 April, injuring seven people, and causing heightened tensions in the region. [265]

City centre clashes and further events

A week later, on 2 May, a rally by about 1,500 pro-government demonstrators, including football ultras, was attacked by visibly smaller group of alleged pro-Russian militants with batons and helmets. [266] [267] Both sides clashed in the streets of central Odesa, building barricades, throwing petrol bombs, and firing automatic weapons at each other. [268]

The anti-Maidan protesters were later overwhelmed by the much larger group of Ukrainian unity protesters, forcing them to retreat to and occupy the Trade Unions House. [269] Whilst defending the building, militants on the roof tossed rocks and petrol bombs at the protesters below, who responded in kind with petrol bombs of their own. [268] [270] The building then caught fire. [270] [271] In total, 43 people died during the clashes. [272] Thirty-one died whilst trapped in the burning Trade Unions House. [273] Police said at least three people were shot dead. [273] [274]

In the aftermath of the clashes, on 4 May, the main Internal Affairs Ministry office in Odesa was attacked by pro-Russian protesters. [275] They demanded the release of their "comrades" who had participated in the clashes. The police complied, resulting in the freeing of 67 of those arrested. [275] By 5 May, the situation in Odesa had calmed, though the atmosphere remained extremely tense. [149]

About sixty people gathered on Kulikovo Field to commemorate the 2 May fire on 13 July. [276] The demonstration was peaceful. Another demonstration on the field on the same day drew about 120 people. They chanted "Donbas, we are with you", in reference to the ongoing War in Donbas. [276] Odesa city mayor Hennadiy Trukhanov told OSCE monitors on 23 July that the "underlying tensions" of the 2 May clashes remained in the city, and that he feared for the city's security. [244]

Odesa was struck by six bomb blasts in December 2014, one of which killed one person (the injuries sustained by the victim indicated that he had dealt with explosives). [277] [278] [279] Internal Affairs Ministry advisor Zorian Shkiryak said on 25 December that Odesa and Kharkiv had become "cities which are being used to escalate tensions" in Ukraine. Shkiryak said that he suspected that these cities were singled out because of their "geographic position". [278]

The Security Service of Ukraine claims that in April 2015 it prevented the proclamation of a so-called "Bessarabian People's Republic". [280] According to the security service the separatist network behind it also wanted to set up a "Odesa People's Republic", "Porto-Franko" and other breakaway entities. [280]

Largest protests by date and attendance

The charts below show the locations, dates, and attendance rate of pro-Russian protests in Ukraine, and also of pro-Ukrainian counter-protests.

Pro-Russian protests

Protests by regionCityPeak attendeesDateReferences
Map of Ukraine (pro-Russian protests).svg
Dnipropetrovsk 1,000–3,0001 Mar [281]
Donetsk 2,000–15,0006 Apr [282] [283]
Kerch 20024 Feb [284]
Kharkiv 2,0006 Apr [285]
Kherson 4002 Mar [286]
Luhansk 10,0009 Mar [287]
Mariupol 2,000–5,0001 Mar [288] [289]
Mykolaiv 5,000–6,0002 Mar [290]
Odesa 10,0001 Mar [291]
Simferopol 5,00026 Feb [292]
Sevastopol 15,000 [293] –25,00023 Feb [294] [295] [296] [297]
Zaporizhzhia 500–5,000+6 Apr [298]
Pro-Russian protest sites:   10,000+    5,000+    1,000+    500+    <500

Pro-Ukrainian counter-protests

Protests by regionCityPeak attendeesDateReferences
Map of Ukraine (pro-Ukraine protests).svg
Chernihiv 2,000+2 Mar [299]
Dnipropetrovsk 10,0002 Mar [300]
Donetsk 5,000–7,00017 Apr [301] [302]
Kharkiv 7,00023 Apr [303]
Kherson 30022 Mar [304] [305]
Kirovohrad 1009 Mar [306]
Kramatorsk 20030 Mar [307]
Kramatorsk 1,00017 Apr [308]
Kryvyi Rih 10,000+19 Apr [309]
Kyiv 8,0002 Mar [310]
Luhansk 1,00013 Apr [311]
Mariupol 1,000+23 Apr [312]
Mykolaiv 5,000–10,0002 Mar [310]
Odesa 10,000–15,00030 Mar [313]
Poltava 1,000+2 Mar [314]
Sevastopol 300+9 Mar [315] [316]
Simferopol 10,00026 Feb [317]
Sumy 10,000+2 Mar [318] [314] [299]
Zaporizhzhia 5,000+2 Mar [319] [320]
Zhytomyr 2,0002 Mar [299]
Pro-Ukrainian protest sites:   10,000+    5,000+    1,000+    500+    <500

List of proclaimed breakaway states

Various breakaway states were proclaimed during the unrest.

Rally of supporters of the Donetsk People's Republic on occasion of Victory Day held in Donetsk, 9 May 2014 2014-05-09. Den' Pobedy v Donetske 231.jpg
Rally of supporters of the Donetsk People's Republic on occasion of Victory Day held in Donetsk, 9 May 2014

Extant

Failed proposals

International response

Various international entities warned all sides to reduce tensions in Eastern and Southern Ukraine.

Sanctions

US Dollar / Russian Ruble Exchange Rate 2001-2022
The Russian ruble lost a lot of value vs the USD during the conflict US Dollar - Russian Ruble Exchange Rate.webp
US Dollar / Russian Ruble Exchange Rate 2001-2022
The Russian ruble lost a lot of value vs the USD during the conflict

During the course of the unrest, the United States, followed by the European Union, Canada, Norway, Switzerland, and Japan, began to sanction Russian individuals and companies that they said were related to the crisis. [380] [381] [382] [383] [384] [385] Announcing the first sanctions, the United States described some individuals targeted by sanctions, among them former Ukrainian president Yanukovych, as "threatening the peace, security, stability, sovereignty, or territorial integrity of Ukraine, and for undermining Ukraine's democratic institutions and processes". [384] The Russian government responded in kind with sanctions against some American and Canadian individuals. [382] With the unrest continuing to escalate, the European Union and Canada imposed further sanctions in mid-May. [386]

Geneva Statement on Ukraine

On 10 April, Ukraine, the United States, Russia and the European Union agreed to hold a 17 April quadrilateral meeting in Geneva to try to negotiate an end to the crisis in Ukraine. [387] The meeting produced a document, called the Geneva Statement on Ukraine, which stated that all sides agreed that steps should be taken to "de-escalate" the crisis. [388] [389] All four parties agreed that all "illegal military formations in Ukraine" must be dissolved, and that everyone occupying buildings must be disarmed and leave but that there would be an amnesty for all anti-government protesters under the agreement. [389] These steps will be overseen by monitors from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). [389] The sides also agreed that the Constitution of Ukraine is also to be revised in a process that is "inclusive, transparent and accountable". [390] The agreement put on hold additional economic sanctions against Russia by the United States and the European Union. [390]

National unity talks

As part of an OSCE initiative to solving the crisis in Ukraine, national unity talks were held in Kyiv, starting from 14 May. [391] Separatists from Donetsk and Luhansk were not represented, as the Ukrainian government said that "those armed people who are trying to wage a war on their own country, those who are with arms in their hands trying to dictate their will, or rather the will of another country, we will use legal procedures against them and they will face justice". The OSCE said that Russian president Vladimir Putin supported its initiative. Concurrently, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that the separatists should be included in the talks. [391] Separatists from Kharkiv were indeed invited to attend, but they refused to participate. [392]

Fifteen-point peace plan

Demonstrators for peace in Ukraine, in Paris. EuroMaidan Paris ndeg32.JPG
Demonstrators for peace in Ukraine, in Paris.

Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko announced a fifteen-point plan for peace on 20 June. [393] The plan called for a week-long ceasefire, starting on 20 June, for the separatists to vacate the buildings they've occupied, for decentralization of power from the central government in Kyiv, and for the protection of Russian-language rights. The full text of the fifteen points are as follows: [394]

  1. Security guarantees for all the participants of negotiations.
  2. Amnesty for those who laid down weapons and didn't commit serious crimes.
  3. Liberation of hostages.
  4. Establishment of a 10-kilometre (6+14 mi) long buffer zone on the Ukrainian-Russian border. Withdrawal of illegal armed formations.
  5. Secure corridor for the escape of Russian and Ukrainian mercenaries.
  6. Disarmament.
  7. Establishment of units for joint patrolling in the structure of the MIA.
  8. Liberation of illegally seized administrative premises in Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
  9. Restoration of functioning of local government.
  10. Restoration of central television and radio broadcasting in Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
    Anti-war demonstration in St. Petersburg, 1 May 2014 Antiwar Democratic March in St. Petersburg on 1 May 2014 (100 3493).JPG
    Anti-war demonstration in St. Petersburg, 1 May 2014
  11. Decentralization of power (through the election of executive committees, protection of Russian language; draft amendments to the Constitution).
  12. Coordination of governors with representatives of the Donbas before the elections
  13. Early local and parliamentary elections.
  14. Program of creating jobs in the region.
  15. Restoration of industrial objects and objects of social infrastructure.

Russian president Vladimir Putin offered some support for the plan, but called for Poroshenko to bring the separatists into negotiations. [395] Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Poroshenko's peace plan "look like an ultimatum." [396] Poroshenko previously refused to enter into negotiations with armed separatists. [397] OSCE monitors with the Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine met with a representative of the Donetsk People's Republic on 21 June to discuss the peace plan. [240] The representative said that the Republic would reject the ceasefire, and said that the primary demands of the government of the Donetsk People's Republic were "withdrawal of Ukrainian forces from Donbas", and recognition of the Republic. However, after initial peace talks between the separatists, Ukrainian and Russian officials, and the OSCE in Donetsk on 23 June, Alexander Borodai, prime minister of the Donetsk People's Republic, said that his forces would hold to the ceasefire. [398] Soon after this statement, separatists in Sloviansk shot down a Ukrainian Armed Forces Mi-8 helicopter, killing all those on board. [399] The next day, the Office of the President of Ukraine issued a statement that said that the ceasefire had been violated by the insurgents at least thirty-five times. President Poroshenko also said that he was considering ending the ceasefire, and Borodai said that "there has been no ceasefire". [399]

Despite this, Poroshenko extended the ceasefire by three days from its planned ending on 27 June. [173] In response to this action, protesters in Kyiv took the streets in large numbers to demand that the ceasefire be cancelled. The ceasefire had little actual impact on clashes between government and separatist forces, with at least five government soldiers killed during the ceasefire. [173] By July, the peace plan had fallen by the wayside and Poroshenko ended ceasefire after both sides accused each other of repeated violations. [351] After a rocket attack that killed nineteen Ukrainian troops, Poroshenko vowed to take revenge on the separatists: "Militants will pay hundreds of their lives for each life of our servicemen. Not a single terrorist will avoid responsibility." [400]

Participants

Activists and Russian security personnel

A rally in support of pro-Russian unrest in the eastern Ukraine, Moscow, 11 June 2014 A rally in support of Novorossiya in Moscow on June 11, 2014 (12).jpg
A rally in support of pro-Russian unrest in the eastern Ukraine, Moscow, 11 June 2014

Former adviser to the President of Russia Vladimir Putin and a senior fellow at the Cato Institute in Washington, DC, Andrey Illarionov estimates that at least 2,000 Russian intelligence officials were operating in eastern Ukraine. [409]

Ukrainian intelligence claims that it had a dossier on more than forty Russian military intelligence, or GRU, operatives arrested so far on Ukrainian soil and the weapons and ammunition seized after being transported across the border from Russia. The file was said to describe the role of an alleged GRU colonel, Igor Ivanovich Strielkov, who had been involved in agitation in the east, including his attempts to suborn Ukrainian soldiers with offers of cash. [410] The Ukrainian Security Service put out a wanted poster for Strielkov, accusing him of a series of charges, included premeditated murder and organizing mass riots. [411] Russia insisted that the allegations were false, and that a Streilkov did not even exist or "at least not as a Russian operative sent to Ukraine with orders to stir up trouble". [412]

CNN presented a video from a large separatist rally held in a central Donetsk city square around lunchtime on 26 May. Lorries in the square carried armed Chechen paramilitaries. Two told a CNN team they were from the Chechen capital, Grozny, and one indicated that he was formerly a policeman in Chechnya and was in Donetsk to serve the Russian Federation. [413] [414] Russian and Ukraininan media published numerous reports on bodies of separatists being transported secretly back to Russia, usually through Uspenka. A few names of the killed volunteers were established—Sergey Zhdanovich (Сергей Жданович), Yuri Abrosimov (Юрий Абросимов), Aleksey Yurin (Алексей Юрин), Alexandr Efremov (Александр Ефремов), Evgeny Korolenko (Евгений Короленко). The bodies were transported to a Russian military base in Rostov-on-Don. Some of the families were able to get the bodies secretly returned to them. Most of the killed had past military experience. According to the journalists Russian military commissariats (voyenkomat) in Rostov were actively recruiting volunteers for Donbas among former soldiers, especially with specific skills (ATGM, SAM, AGS-17) and those who had previously served in Chechnya and Afghanistan. [415] [416]

On 18 June Daniel Baer (OSCE) noted that "there continue to be fighters and arms coming across the border from Russia to Ukraine in recent days and weeks, and we don't see any efforts to turn it off by Russia". [417]

Russian citizens

Alexander Dugin

On 29 March, Russian political scientist Aleksandr Dugin appeared in a leaked Skype video conference with Kateryna Gubareva, the wife of Donetsk-based separatist Pavel Gubarev. In the call, he reassured her of Moscow's support and further actions that should be taken by the movement. He also stated all presidential nominees should be considered 'traitors' with only Yanukovych considered legitimate. He also said that separatists should "act in a radical way" and Moscow will later support civil war in Ukraine, saying "The Kremlin is determined to fight for the independence of South-east Ukraine." [418] [419] Following the video's release, a member of Dugin's Eurasian Youth Union (Oleg Bakhtiyarov) was arrested on 31 March for planning terrorist acts in Ukraine. [38]

Pro-government figures

Valentyn Nalyvaichenko (speaking), the head of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), and Andriy Parubiy (far left), 23 March 2014 Maidan meeting 2014 march 23 (2).JPG
Valentyn Nalyvaichenko (speaking), the head of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), and Andriy Parubiy (far left), 23 March 2014

Other foreign participants

OSCE monitors

Monitors from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) were sent to Ukraine after a request by the Ukrainian government, and an agreement between all member states of the OSCE, including Russia. [439] The Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) deployed on 6 April, and has remained in Ukraine to "contribute to reducing tensions and fostering peace, stability and security". [439] The SMM lost contact with four monitors in Donetsk Oblast on 26 May, and another four in Luhansk Oblast on 29 May. [239] Both groups were held in captivity by separatists for a month, until being freed on 27 June and 28 June respectively. [440]

Defectors

Ukrainian defectors to Russia

Throughout the conflict, there were reports of both police and military either deserting their posts or defecting to the separatists. Oleksandr Turchynov stated that numerous Ukrainian military and security personnel joined the separatists, alongside Ukrainian military equipment. [441] A report by the Internal Affairs Ministry said that over 17,000 policemen had defected to insurgents in eastern Ukraine by 23 May. [442] [443] [444] [445]

Russian defectors to Ukraine

On 19 July, Ilya Bogdanov, a former Russian FSB lieutenant in Vladivostok, defected to Ukraine claiming that he could not longer stand the lies used by Russia to stimulate the situation in Eastern Ukraine and Dagestan, where he served earlier. [446] On 24 July, Russian army serviceman Andrej Balabanov asked for political asylum in Ukraine stating "I finally took a decision not to take part in this war and sided with Ukraine. This is my protest against Russia's political leaders". [447] Balabanov claimed his unit had sent "military intelligence, GRU, experts and Chechens" into Ukraine to help the separatists. [447] He went on to claim his unit had been "continuously brainwashed into believing they would be sent to Ukraine to save their Russian-speaking brothers". [447]

Arrests

Bounty

In April 2014 international billionaire and governor of Dnipropetrovsk Igor Kolomoisky issued a $10,000 bounty for the apprehension of Russian agents. He also offered rewards for handing in weapons belonging to insurgents: $1,000 for each machine gun turned in to the authorities, $1,500 for every heavy machine gun and $2,000 for a grenade launcher. [474] On 19 April he issued his first $10,000 payout for the capture of a Russian saboteur. [475] Media reported that least one billboard existed with the following text: "$10,000 for a Moskal" (derogatory name for Russians). [476] According to The Daily Beast no such billboards existed and the photo media referred to "was faked for the Internet." [477]

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">2014 Ukrainian presidential election</span>

Snap presidential elections were held in Ukraine on 25 May 2014 and resulted in Petro Poroshenko being elected President of Ukraine. Originally scheduled to take place on 29 March 2015, the date was changed following the 2014 Ukrainian revolution. Poroshenko won the elections with 54.7% of the votes, enough to win in a single round. His closest competitor, Yulia Tymoshenko, emerged with 12.81% of the votes. The Central Election Commission reported voter turnout over 60%, excluding the regions not under government control. Since Poroshenko obtained an absolute majority in the first round, a run-off second ballot was unnecessary.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pavel Gubarev</span> Ukrainian separatist leader (born 1983)

Pavel Yuryevich Gubarev is a Ukrainian-born Russian public figure, primarily known for his activities in Donbas in 2014.

The following lists events that happened in 2014 in Russia.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Donetsk People's Republic</span> Disputed Russian republic in eastern Ukraine

The Donetsk People's Republic is an internationally unrecognized republic of Russia, comprising the occupied parts of eastern Ukraine's Donetsk Oblast, with its capital in Donetsk. The DPR was created by Russian-backed paramilitaries in 2014, and it initially operated as a breakaway state until it was annexed by Russia in 2022.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Donetsk Republic (movement)</span> Political party in Ukraine

The Social Movement "Donetsk Republic" is a pro-Russian separatist political movement operating in the Donetsk region of Ukraine. Before its annexation, the movement's goal was the creation of a "federation of sovereign Donetsk", which would include seven regions of eastern and southern Ukraine. The group was banned in 2007, but this ban was marginal until the 2014 Donbas war. In 2014, it founded the Donetsk People's Republic, which Ukraine's government deems a terrorist organization. The movement won the 2014 Donbas general elections with 68.53% of the vote and 68 seats, which were condemned as illegitimate and a violation of the Minsk ceasefire agreements between Ukraine, Russia, and the OSCE.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Timeline of the 2014 pro-Russian unrest in Ukraine</span>

This is a timeline of the 2014 pro-Russian unrest that has erupted in Ukraine, in the aftermath of the Ukrainian revolution and the Euromaidan movement.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Siege of Sloviansk</span> 2014 siege during the Donbas war

The Siege of Sloviansk was an operation by the Armed Forces of Ukraine to recapture the city of Sloviansk in Donetsk Oblast from pro-Russian insurgents who had seized it on 12 April 2014. The city was taken back on 5 July 2014 after shelling from artillery and heavy fighting. The fighting in Sloviansk marked the first military engagement between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian government forces in the Donbas War.

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">War in Donbas</span> 2014–2022 war between Ukraine and Russia

The war in Donbas, or Donbas war was a phase of the Russo-Ukrainian War in the Donbas region of Ukraine. The war began in April 2014 when armed Russian-backed separatists seized government buildings and the Ukrainian military launched an operation against them. It continued until it was subsumed by the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Luhansk People's Republic</span> Disputed Russian republic in eastern Ukraine

The Luhansk People's Republic or Lugansk People's Republic is an internationally unrecognised republic of Russia in the occupied parts of eastern Ukraine's Luhansk Oblast, with its capital in Luhansk. The LPR was proclaimed by Russian-backed paramilitaries in 2014, and it initially operated as a breakaway state until it was annexed by Russia in 2022.

Novorossiya or New Russia, also referred to as the Union of People's Republics, was a project for a confederation between the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) and the Luhansk People's Republic (LPR) in Eastern Ukraine, both of which were under the control of pro-Russian separatists.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Siege of the Luhansk Border Base</span> 2014 siege during the War in Donbas

The siege of the Luhansk Border Base was a two-day-long standoff at a Ukrainian border base located on the outskirts of Luhansk city, from 2 to 4 June 2014.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ihor Baluta</span> Ukrainian pediatrician, businessman, and politician

Ihor Myronovych Baluta is a Ukrainian pediatrician, businessman, Ukrainian politician and Governor of Kharkiv Oblast from March 2014 to February 2015.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Humanitarian situation during the war in Donbas (2014–2022)</span>

During the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian War between the Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists in the Donbas region of Ukraine that began in April 2014, many international organisations and states noted a deteriorating humanitarian situation in the conflict zone.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Minsk agreements</span> Series of agreements to stop the Donbas war

The Minsk agreements were a series of international agreements which sought to end the Donbas war fought between armed Russian separatist groups and Armed Forces of Ukraine, with Russian regular forces playing a central part. The first, known as the Minsk Protocol, was drafted in 2014 by the Trilateral Contact Group on Ukraine, consisting of Ukraine, Russia, and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), with mediation by the leaders of France and Germany in the so-called Normandy Format. After extensive talks in Minsk, Belarus, the agreement was signed on 5 September 2014 by representatives of the Trilateral Contact Group and, without recognition of their status, by the then-leaders of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) and Luhansk People's Republic (LPR). This agreement followed multiple previous attempts to stop the fighting in the region and aimed to implement an immediate ceasefire.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Special forces of Ukraine</span> Ukrainian special operation units

Ukraine inherited its special forces (Spetsnaz) units from the remnants of the Soviet armed forces, GRU and KGB units. Ukraine now maintains its own Spetsnaz structure under the control of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and under the Ministry of Defence, while the Security Service of Ukraine maintains its own Spetsnaz force, the Alpha group. In 2016 the Special Operations Forces were created as an independent branch of the Armed Forces of Ukraine formed only by special forces units.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Joint Forces Operation (Ukraine)</span> Official name for territory where the war in Donbass takes place

Anti-Terrorist Operation Zone, or ATO zone, was a term used by the media, publicity, the government of Ukraine, and the OSCE and other foreign institutions to identify Ukrainian territory of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions (oblasts) under the control of Russian military forces and pro-Russian separatists. A significant part of ATO zone is considered temporarily occupied territory of Ukraine.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Russian-occupied territories of Ukraine</span>

Russian-occupied territories of Ukraine are areas of Ukraine that are currently controlled by Russia in the course of the Russo-Ukrainian War. In Ukrainian law, they are defined as the "temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine".

The combatants of the war in Donbas included foreign and domestic forces.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Outline of the Russo-Ukrainian War</span> Outline of the war between Russia and Ukraine since 2014

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to the Russo-Ukrainian War:

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