Following my earlier two blogs on Ukraine my good friend Edward posed some more questions to me. Rather than just answering him alone, I am answering them on the blog, as I guess others may have the same or similar questions.
Donbas War. This war began around the time of the Russian invasion and annexation of The Crimea in 2014. The Donbas is largely Russian speaking and the war began as a series of ever increasing protests and violence by the local population against the Central Government in Kiev, mainly to begin with concerning the curtailing of the use of the Russian language. Kiev sent troops in to restore order. Russia became involved supporting the Separatists with what is today called the 'Hybrid approach to war', ie combination of disinformation, irregular fighters, regular Russian troops, and conventional military support. The separatist movement was in part of the oblasts (provinces) of Donetsk and Luhansk. These two enclaves formed mini states, but they did not control the entirety of The Donbas, ie the two oblasts of Donetsk and Luhansk . Russia upped its military involvement to hold the Ukrainian Army at bay, whilst declaring it was becoming involved in order to protect Russian lives, that is the Ukrainians in the region who were both Russian speaking and Russian supporting. Today this war has become part of the wider Russo-Ukrainian conflict, although as war finally broke out in February 2022 Russia recognised the two breakaway regions in Donetsk and Luhansk as independent states.
There have been claims and counter claims of atrocities committed by both sides in the war. Yet Putin's claim of genocide does not seem to have any evidence behind it. The UN declaring that be September 2021 a total of 3,393 civilians have been killed. Although The UN has also said, in November 2017, that 427,240 people have fled to Russia. A far smaller number, on UN figures, have fled to Western Europe. A total of 1.8 m, again according to UN figures, have been internally displaced within Ukraine itself. Make of this war of words what you will. We are unlikely to get more accurate figures until the war ends, and even then we may not.
Donbas forms part of the wider region known as East Ukraine, which includes Ukraine's second city, Kharkiv. However, if Russia and The West were to agree to a partition into a Western (European) Ukraine and an Eastern (Russian) Ukraine no one can be sure where the dividing line would fall. It is far from obvious.
Some statistics. A recent poll in the Donetsk and Luhansk areas, outside of the Donetsk and Luhansk self proclaimed independent states, showed 75% wanted to stay in Ukraine, 7% wished to join Russia, and 1% wanted an independent country. All figures are now suspect in the wake of the Russian invasion when we have seen many Russian speaking Ukrainians becoming very anti Russia. One problem for a divided Ukraine is the west is agricultural and the east is industrial. They are interdependent.
The proportion of Ukrainian speakers in the entire country is 67.5% and 29.6% are Russian speaking. Yet many are bilingual and what the numbers are today, following invasion, who would describe themselves as Ukrainian speaking may well be higher.
What do Separatists want? This is difficult to answer for there are a variety of views from independence, to a federal Ukraine, to joining Russia. These views may well have changed. It is now more of a question of what the Russians want.
What does the figure of 13,000 deaths in The Donbas War refer to? The figure is a UN figure and is up to January 2021; it includes: civilians, forces of the two breakaway states in Donetsk and Luhansk, Ukrainian forces, and Russian forces.
Additionally a few points from me
The poor showing by The Russian Army should surprise no one as reference back to Afghanistan, World War One, and The Crimean War showed up all the current issues as to the ineffectiveness of Putin's Army today - poor communications, supply problems, poorly led and poorly informed troops on the ground, poorly kept equipment. The exception is World War Two which indeed as the Russians designate it was largely' A People's War' (ie exactly the type of defensive war being fought today by Ukrainians) before later it turned into an offensive war, with Germany now on the back foot after their defeat at Stalingrad.
Kiev or Kyiv. The first is in the Russian language, the second in the Ukrainian language.