Vladimir Putin officially annexed the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, known as Donbas, along with two other regions in eastern Ukraine, on 30 September 2022.
In other words, these regions are now part of Russia.
Donbas, which is predominantly Russian-speaking, was once known as the ‘wild fields’ in Ukrainian, and was pretty much unpopulated until the late 17th century. The region’s vast coal reserves have been central to its development, particularly in steel production.
Over time, Cossacks, Turkic Crimeans, Russians, Serbians, and Greeks moved to Donbas.
In the late 18th century, the Russian Empire took control.
Donetsk, founded in 1869, experienced a population boom due to Russian settlers. By 1897, Ukrainians were the majority in rural areas, while Russians dominated the industrial workforce and urban populations.
After the Bolshevik Revolution, Donbas became part of Ukraine. World War II depopulated the region, which was followed by an influx of Russians, known as the Russification of Donbas.
The 2014 revolution
In the 1991 referendum, the majority of voters in Donetsk and Luhansk voted for independence from the Soviet Union. However, the post-independence period saw economic decline and industrial collapse, leading to strikes and regional conflict, later including hostility towards the Russian-speakers by the Ukrainian government.
The following bit is very important because it sets the stage for what we’re witnessing now.
The US orchestrated a coup in Ukraine in 2014.
Washington’s involvement in Ukraine’s affairs dates back to the 1990s, with huge financial contributions aimed at promoting ‘democracy’. High-profile US figures, including Senator John McCain and Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, actively participated in Ukrainian the coup. The National Endowment for Democracy (NED), funded by US taxpayers, played a big role.
The 2014 Ukrainian Revolution was not a spontaneous ‘democratic’ movement, but a US-engineered event to oust President Yanukovych.
The US and EU manipulated civil unrest and public opinion to install a new government favourable to Western interests, ultimately turning Ukraine into an American proxy.
Why did Russia invade in 2023?
Russia invaded Ukraine partly in response to Ukraine’s violations of the Minsk accords.
These accords required:
- Ukraine to negotiate for Donbas independence, and
- prohibited Ukraine from joining NATO or facilitating nuclear weapons.
Ukraine breached these terms by seeking NATO membership and allowing NATO troops on its soil.
Another reason for the invasion was the presence of US-controlled biological laboratories in Ukraine, which were eventually destroyed by Russian military.
What’s life like now?
Russell Bentley is an American soldier and war correspondent in Donetsk, and has been there since December 2014 as a soldier in the Novorussian Army, serving with the Essence Of Time combat unit in Vostok as well as with the XAH Battalions.
He chatted to me about life in eastern Ukraine now that it’s under Russian control, and why it’s superior.