Russia and Ukraine: what do we know about the Donetsk and Lugansk regions?

 Russia and Ukraine: what do we know about the Donetsk and Lugansk regions?

The Donetsk and Lugansk regions, located in the far East of Ukraine, became the center of the battles between Russia and Ukraine after Russia transferred most of its military efforts to the east of Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered his troops to enter rebel-held separatist strongholds. Putin announced Moscow's recognition of their independent states even before the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. What we know about the Donetsk and Lugansk regions

In 2014, the rebels managed to take control of large territories in both regions by announcing the creation of the Donetsk People's Republic and the Lugansk People's Republic on the border with Russia.

But both formations are completely dependent on Russian financial and military support.

Ukraine calls them "temporarily occupied territories," like Crimea, which Russia invaded and annexed in 2014.

The head of the Donetsk People's Republic, Denis pushilin, and the head of the Lugansk People's Republic, Leonid Pashinik, won the 2018 elections, which were condemned by the international community. Both called for the accession of the territories under their control to the Russian Federation.

Where are Lugansk and Donetsk on the map

Both separatist regions are part of the Donbas basin and follow the so-called "Donbass-Russian doctrine", which considers the region to be Russian territory.

Donbas and Lugansk are located on the territory that the UN considers part of the state of Ukraine. At the moment, it is not clear whether the Russian troops will remain on the territory controlled by the separatists or move away from the Donetsk and Lugansk regions.

In the second half of the XIX century, Donetsk was a center of coal mining.

It was originally called "yuzovka" or "yuzevka", in reference to the Welsh businessman John Hughes, who founded a steel mill and several coal mines in the area.

The steel industry developed in Soviet times, and many Russian-speaking workers were sent there.

The city was renamed Stalin in 1924, then Stalino in 1929, and finally Donetsk in 1961.

What is happening in Donetsk and Lugansk

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 90s, both regions became part of the independent state of Ukraine. But Russian President Vladimir Putin considers Ukraine to be a Soviet entity and once wrote that he considered Russians and Ukrainians to be "one people".

In 2014, a violent conflict between Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian nationalists exacerbated tensions in the region.

Natalia savelieva, a researcher at the center for the analysis of European politics, said that gradually the areas controlled by the separatists were isolated from the rest of Ukraine, and more politically, economically, and culturally integrated with Russia.

Although the territory is not officially part of Russia, about 750,000 residents live in the Donbas, who, according to some estimates, have Russian passports and have the right to vote in Russian elections.

They are also entitled to Russian social security and pension funds depending on their legal status, which also makes it easier for them to work in Russia.

While many residents feel a close connection with Russia, others want to remain Ukrainians.

"They illegally took our land," 61-year-old Lyudmila, a resident of the city of Donetsk Slavyansk, told the BBC in an interview. The same thing happened in Crimea. I cannot understand why Putin is pursuing such a policy," he said.

But another anonymous resident told us that he thought it was time for a change: "There is a decision that must be made anyway, on this side or the other. Maybe it will lead to changes and I hope everything will be fine," he said.

Ukrainian relations

In turn, the inhabitants of Donbas have become difficult traveling to Ukraine for medical care or social assistance.

The number of people crossing the border between the two regions and the rest of Ukraine decreased during the armed conflict that lasted from 2014 to 2015 and then decreased again against the background of the closure of borders due to the coronavirus epidemic. Their number has increased slightly lately, but the transit rate remains low.

"Political integration with Russia is closely linked to a deliberate attempt aimed at a cultural dissociation from Ukraine," Dr savelyeva said.

Ukrainian vs Russian

In 2020, both regions stopped considering Ukrainian as an official language and the only official language there became Russian. In local schools stopped teaching the Ukrainian language and Ukrainian history.

Savelyeva writes that, therefore, "young people born before or during the conflict were deprived of any sense of Ukrainian identity (except in cases where families are specifically engaged in its transmission)".

After the recognition of the separatist regions, Putin sent the troops of his army with a "peacekeeping mission" to the Donetsk and Lugansk regions. This means that Russian troops are now on the sovereign territory of Ukraine.

"The Russian army has already crossed the borders of the Donetsk People's Republic and the Lugansk People's Republic and has taken up positions in the north and west," Vadislav Berdyshevsky, a member of the so-called People's Assembly of the Donetsk People's Republic, said in a video broadcast by the Politica strani Telegram channel.

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