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KIEV – The president of Russia Vladimir Putin
recognized – on Monday 21 February 2022 – the People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, two Russian-speaking enclaves located in the Ukrainian Donbass, a region in the east of the country. These two republics had proclaimed themselves independent from Kiev in 2014. The resulting war – over the past eight years – has caused, according to United Nations data, the death of at least 22,000 people.
In recent months, Putin had been distributing in the Ukrainian Donbass seven hundred thousand Russian passports: practically one per family. And in the past few hours – after amassing thousands of troops on the border, and before giving the order to enter the republics of Donetsk and Lugansk for a mission of peace and protection of the local population – he had also offered $ 130 for each refugee who decided to flee the Donbass to Russia.
The request to recognize Donetsk and Lugansk was formalized last Wednesday, February 15, by the Duma.
The port of Mariupolof great strategic importance.
Why do we fight in the Donbass?
It all starts with the Maidan uprising, the great central square of Kiev, February 2014, when weeks of barricades end with the flight to Moscow of pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovychopposed to Ukraine joining NATO.
The first reaction of Vladimir Putin the flash invasion of the Russophile Crimea.
The second, more problematic, move the Donbass uprising.
On 6 April 2014, pro-Russian armed men attack the central government buildings in the East, many cities fall into their hands. The military advisers from Moscow arrive.
The new Ukrainian government, which lost Crimea without firing a shot, defines the insurgents as terrorists and moves the troops.
Between offensives, counter-offensives and truces, paramilitaries and foreign mercenaries, a long series of terrible massacres began, from stake in Odessa the downing of the Malaysian Boeing with 298 people on board on July 17, 2014.
In the message to the nation with which, on February 21, he announced the recognition of the republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, Putin cited both the Odessa massacre (we know the names of those responsible, one by one: and we will come to punish you) and the revolt of Maidan square (the United States financed it with one million dollars a day).
Why does Donbass want to break away from Ukraine?
an indispensable security buffer for Putin, in the hypothesis of an enlargement of NATO in Ukraine.
the region of the great coal mines.
the treasure of the steel mills and oligarchs linked to Moscow.
the cradle of an Orthodox Church loyal to Russia, from which the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has recently detached (this factor was also mentioned by Putin in his address to the nation).
One of the most controversial topics is the language: nobody wants to give up Russian. In 1996, five years after gaining independence, Ukraine introduced Ukrainian as the only official language into the constitution. The newly elected Yanukovych equates Russian with Ukrainian in Donbass, with a law that was declared unconstitutional after Maidan. Today the clear restoration: Ukrainian is the only official language, in schools Russian can only be taught as a foreign language, 90% of films must be in Ukrainian. AND the Donbass feels more and more Russian.
Why is Putin talking about genocide?
Russia argues that Ukraine never wanted to apply the peace agreements signed in Minsk in 2014-2015which provide, among other things, a wide autonomy of the Donbass.
Ukraine, which rejects those agreements because they are too unbalanced, defines the recognition of the two republics as an unarmed aggression: the premise – realized on Monday 21 February – of a mutual aid pact with the Kremlin, therefore of an invasion, as soon as the Russian minorities in Ukraine were to report an attack on Kiev.
The hypothesized pattern, and in fact occurred, is similar to what happened in Georgia in 2008: Vladimir Putin recognized the independence of the two pro-Russian separatist republics, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, after a rapid conflict against the government of Tbilisi which, just like Ukraine, aspired to join NATO.
The majority of Russians suffer from what is happening in Donbass, Putin said, a genocide is already underway and patience is over.
Why had we forgotten about the Donbass?
One month after a major defeat by Ukrainian troops, August 2014, Kiev and the Donbass rebels signed the two Minsk truces.
The first document, Minsk 1, never entered into force: in 2015, the Ukrainians suffered another defeat in Debaltseve and it was at that point that France and Germany took action for a new negotiation, Minsk 2.
With the end of the great battles, the international community relaxes. Even if the clashes, small, have never stopped. Ukraine accuses Russia of never having withdrawn troops, as agreed.
Russia replies that Kiev does not respect the points of the agreement and uses Western mercenaries.
The latest peace, signed in Paris in 2019, remains a dead letter.
What kind of war has been in Donbass so far?
A frozen war. Hail, the inhabitants on the border say resigned to the phone, when they talk about their day: dozens and dozens of violations of the ceasefire, every day. A teacher from Novotoshkivske, Olga Solohub, explains that the kids on the border now recognize the calibers according to the whistle: stronger if a 122 mm, more muffled if an 82. A childhood of war, in danger even when school ends.
The Donbass is now one of the largest minefields on Earth: one million and 600 thousand hectares of land thus trapped, says the UN.
A hell halfway between Bosnia and Afghanistan. If the war ended today, to be sure that everything has been reclaimed, we would have to wait until at least 2080.
Who are the presidents of the Donetsk and Lugansk republics?
Leonid Pasechnik and Denis Pushilin, told here: they are the pawns (says Putin) or puppets (says Biden) of this war game. When the Ukrainian media mentions them, they call them “the separatist terrorists” and list Articles 109, 110 and 258 of the Criminal Code, which would at least give them life imprisonment. But Pasechnik, 51 years old and a past in the Kiev secret services, since 2017 president of Luganskaja Respublika (for all: Lnr), still takes offense: “I am a soldier and I have a code of conduct – he once said – I also received a medal because I had refused a bribe ”, a very noble gesture in a very corrupt country. That was another life: Leonid always felt Ukrainian by chance, they call him Magadan, from the city of the Stalinist gulag overlooking the Pacific Ocean, because as a boy he had grown up and had forged himself in the nostalgia of everything he knew about Russia. What was someone like him doing in the Lugansk that Brezhnev himself had named after the heroic Marshal Vorosilov and the most faithful exegete of Stalinism? What could Leonid Pasechnik do with a Ukraine like the one that came out of the 2014 revolution, with a country that dreamed of the West?
Parallel and different fate, the other president. That he never had anything in the military: Denis Pusilin, 40 years old, little desire to study, some strange deal with a financial woman accused of having defrauded 10 million Russians, a pastry chef experience at the Dolce Vita factory, when in 2018 he became the head of the Donetska Respublika (for all: Dnr) , in the first photos he stood out above all for the electric blue blazers and the silver domopak suits in the midst of the camouflage patterns of his soldiers. He had already attempted a career in Kiev, founding a pro-Russian party voted by 0.08%. The Maidan revolt surprised him unemployed, struck him on the way to Moscow and made him political fortune.
In these Republics, leaders last less than one shot: they killed six in eight years. “Magadan” Pasechnik came to power in a coup: after surrounding the house of his rival, Igor Plotnitsky for three days, he had him sign a resignation letter “for health reasons”. Pusilin instead became boss when the Kremlin’s close friend, President Alexander Zakharchenko, the last survivor of the 2014 separatist uprisings, jumped over a mysterious car bomb planted at his favorite café in Donetsk, the “Separatist”.