The Donbass (Russian: Донба́сс) or Donbas (Ukrainian: Донба́с),[1][2] is a historical, cultural, and economic region in eastern Ukraine and southwestern Russia. The word "Donbass" is a portmanteau formed from Donets Basin (Ukrainian: Донецький басейн, romanizedDonetskyj basejn; Russian: Донецкий бассейн, romanizedDonetskij bassejn), which refers to the river Donets that flows through it.[3] Multiple definitions of the region's extent exist, and its boundaries have never been officially demarcated.

The most common definition in use today refers to the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine, whilst the historical coal mining region excluded parts of these oblasts, and included areas in Dnipropetrovsk Oblast and Southern Russia.[4] A Euroregion of the same name is composed of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts in Ukraine and Rostov Oblast in Russia.[5] Donbass formed the historical border between the Zaporizhian Sich and the Don Cossack Host. It has been an important coal mining area since the late 19th century, when it became a heavily industrialised territory.[6]

In March 2014, following the 2014 Ukrainian revolution and Russian military intervention, large swaths of the Donbass became gripped by unrest. This unrest later grew into a war between pro-Russian separatists affiliated with the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics (neither of which are recognized as legitimate by any of the UN member states[7]), and the post-revolutionary Ukrainian government. Until the ongoing war, the Donbass was the most densely populated of all the regions of Ukraine apart from the capital city of Kiev.

Before the war, the city of Donetsk (then the fifth largest city of Ukraine) had been considered the unofficial capital of the Donbass. Large cities (over 100,000 inhabitants) also included Luhansk, Mariupol, Makiivka, Horlivka, Kramatorsk, Sloviansk, Alchevsk, Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk. Now the city of Kramatorsk is the interim administrative center of the Donetsk Oblast, whereas the interim center of Luhansk Oblast is the city of Severodonetsk. On the separatist side, Donetsk, Makiivka and Horlivka are now the largest cities in the Donetsk People's Republic, and Luhansk and Alchevsk in the Luhansk People's Republic.

Map of the Donbass
The contemporary media definition of Donbas in Ukraine overlapping territories of Sloboda Ukraine


Сбор угля бедными на выработанной шахте
Poor Collecting Coal by Nikolay Kasatkin: Donbass, 1894

The region now known as the Donbass was largely unpopulated until the second half of the 17th century, when Don Cossacks settled in the area.[8] The first town in the region was founded in 1676, called Solanoye (now Soledar), which was built for the profitable business of exploiting newly discovered rock-salt reserves. Known for being "Wild Fields" (Ukrainian: дике поле, dyke pole), the area that is now called the Donbass was largely under control of the Ukrainian Cossack Hetmanate and the Turkic Crimean Khanate until the mid-late 18th century, when the Russian Empire conquered the Hetmanate and annexed the Khanate.[9] It named the conquered territories "New Russia" (Russian: Новоро́ссия, Novorossiya). As the Industrial Revolution took hold across Europe, the vast coal resources of the region, discovered in 1721, began to be exploited in the mid-late 19th century.[10] It was at this point that the name "Donbass" came into use, derived from the term "Donets Coal Basin" (Ukrainian: Донецький вугільний басейн; Russian: Донецкий каменноугольный бассейн), referring the area along the river Donets where most of the coal reserves were found. The rise of the coal industry led to a population boom in the region, largely driven by Russian settlers.[11] The region was governed as the Bakhmut, Slovianserbsk and Mariupol counties of Yekaterinoslav Governorate.

Donetsk, the most important city in the region today, was founded in 1869 by British businessman John Hughes on the site of the old Zaporozhian Cossack town of Oleksandrivka. Hughes built a steel mill and established several collieries in the region. The city was named after him as "Yuzovka" (Russian: Юзовка). With development of Yuzovka and similar cities, large amounts of landless peasants from peripheral governorates of the Russian Empire came looking for work.[3]

According to the Russian Imperial Census of 1897, ethnic Ukrainians comprised 52.4% of the population of region, whilst ethnic Russians comprised 28.7%.[12] Ethnic Greeks, Germans, Jews and Tatars also had a significant presence in the Donbass, particularly in the district of Mariupol, where they comprised 36.7% of the population.[13] Despite this, Russians constituted the majority of the industrial work-force. Ukrainians dominated rural areas, but cities were often inhabited solely by Russians who had come seeking work in the region's heavy industries.[14] Those ethnic Ukrainians who did move to the cities for work were quickly assimilated into the Russian-speaking worker class.[15]

Into the Soviet period

The Donets Basin is the heart of Russia
A Soviet propaganda poster from 1921 that says "Donbass is the heart of Russia"

In April 1918 troops loyal to the Ukrainian People's Republic took control of large parts of the region.[16] For a while, its government bodies operated in the Donbass alongside their Russian Provisional Government equivalents.[17] The Ukrainian State, the successor of the Ukrainian People's Republic, was able in May 1918 to bring the region under control for a short time with the help of its German and Austro-Hungarian allies.[17]

In the 1917–22 Russian Civil War Nestor Makhno, who had power and more or less consistently fulfilled his promises, was the most popular leader in the Donbass.[17]

Along with other territories inhabited by Ukrainians, the Donbass was incorporated into the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in the aftermath of the Russian Civil War. Ukrainian-speaking cossacks in the region were subjected to decossackisation during 1919–1921.[18] Ukrainians in the Donbass were greatly affected by the 1932–33 Holodomor famine and the Russification policy of Joseph Stalin. As most ethnic Ukrainians were rural peasant farmers (called "kulaks" by the Soviet regime), they bore the brunt of the famine.[19][20] According to the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain, the population of the area that is now Luhansk Oblast declined by 25% as a result of the famine, whereas it declined by 15–20% in the area that is now Donetsk Oblast.[21] According to one estimate, 81.3% of those who died during the famine in the Ukrainian SSR were ethnic Ukrainians, whilst only 4.5% were ethnic Russians.[22]

Donbass was greatly affected by the Second World War. In the lead up to the war, the Donbass was racked by poverty and food shortages. War preparations resulted in an extension of the working day for factory labourers, whilst those that deviated from the heightened standards were arrested.[23] German Reich leader Adolf Hitler viewed the resources of the Donbass as critical to Operation Barbarossa. As such, the Donbass suffered under Nazi occupation during 1941 and 1942.[24] Thousands of industrial laborers were forcibly "exported" to Germany for use in factories. In what was then called Stalino Oblast, now Donetsk Oblast, 279,000 civilians were killed over the course of the occupation. In Voroshilovgrad Oblast, now Luhansk Oblast, 45,649 were killed.[25] An offensive by the Red Army in 1943 resulted in the return of Donbass to Soviet control. The war had taken its toll, leaving the region both destroyed and depopulated.

During the reconstruction of the Donbass after World War II, large numbers of Russian workers arrived to repopulate the region, further altering the population balance. In 1926, 639,000 ethnic Russians resided in the Donbass.[26] By 1959, the ethnic Russian population was 2.55 million. Russification was further advanced by the 1958–59 Soviet educational reforms, which led to the near elimination of all Ukrainian-language schooling in the Donbass.[27][28] By the time of the Soviet Census of 1989, 45% of the population of the Donbass reported their ethnicity as Russian.[29]

In independent Ukraine

Don Cossacks monument Luhansk
A monument to Don Cossacks in Luhansk. "To the sons of glory and freedom"

In the 1991 referendum on Ukrainian independence, 83.9% of voters in Donetsk Oblast and 83.6% in Luhansk Oblast supported independence from the Soviet Union. Turnout was 76.7% in Donetsk Oblast and 80.7% in Luhansk Oblast.[30] In October 1991 a congress of South-Eastern deputies from all levels of government took place in Donetsk, where delegates demanded federalisation.[17]

The region's economy deteriorated severely in the ensuing years. By 1993, industrial production had collapsed, and average wages had fallen by 80% since 1990. Donbass fell into crisis, with many accusing the new central government in Kiev of mismanagement and neglect. Donbass coal miners went on strike in 1993, causing a conflict that was described by historian Lewis Siegelbaum as "a struggle between the Donbass region and the rest of the country". One strike leader said that Donbass people had voted for independence because they wanted "power to be given to the localities, enterprises, cities", not because they wanted heavily centralised power moved from "Moscow to Kiev".[30]

This strike was followed by a 1994 consultative referendum on various constitutional questions in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, held concurrently with the first parliamentary elections in independent Ukraine.[31] These questions included whether Russian should be enshrined as an official language of Ukraine, whether Russian should be the language of administration in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, whether Ukraine should federalise, and whether Ukraine should have closer ties with the Commonwealth of Independent States.[32] Close to 90% of voters voted in favour of these propositions.[33] None of them were adopted: Ukraine remained a unitary state, Ukrainian was retained as the sole official language, and the Donbass gained no autonomy.[29] Nevertheless, the Donbass strikers gained many economic concessions from Kiev, allowing for an alleviation of the economic crisis in the region.[30]

Small strikes continued throughout the 1990s, though demands for autonomy faded. Some subsidies to Donbass heavy industries were eliminated, and many mines were closed by the Ukrainian government because of liberalising reforms pushed for by the World Bank.[30] Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma, who won the 1994 presidential election with support from the Donbass and other areas in eastern Ukraine, was re-elected in 1999.[30] Kuchma gave economic aid to the Donbass, using development money to gain political support in the region.[30] Power in the Donbass became concentrated in a regional political elite, known as oligarchs, during the early 2000s. Privatisation of state industries led to rampant corruption. Regional historian Hiroaki Kuromiya described this elite as the "Donbass clan", a group of people that controlled economic and political power in the region.[30] Prominent members of the "clan" included Viktor Yanukovych and Rinat Akhmetov. The formation of the oligarchy, combined with corruption, led to perceptions of the Donbass as "the least democratic and the most sinister region in Ukraine".[30]

In other parts of Ukraine during the 2000s, Donbass was often perceived as having a "thug culture", as being a "Soviet cesspool", and as "backward". Writing in the Narodne slovo newspaper in 2005, commentator Viktor Tkachenko said that Donbass was home to "fifth columns", and that speaking Ukrainian in the region was "not safe for one's health and life".[34] It was also portrayed as being home to pro-Russian separatism. Donbass is home to a significantly higher number of cities and villages that were named after Communist figures compared to the rest of Ukraine.[35] Despite this portrayal, surveys taken across that decade and during the 1990s showed strong support for remaining within Ukraine, and insignificant support for separatism.[36]

War in Donbass (2014–present)

OSCE SMM monitoring the movement of heavy weaponry in eastern Ukraine (16544083798)
Ukrainian troops in Donbass, March 2015

From the beginning of March 2014, demonstrations by pro-Russian and anti-government groups took place in the Donbass, as part of the aftermath of the February 2014 Ukrainian revolution and the Euromaidan movement. These demonstrations, which followed the annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation, and which were part of a wider group of concurrent pro-Russian protests across southern and eastern Ukraine, escalated in April 2014 into a war between the separatist forces of the self-declared Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics (DPR and LPR respectively), and the Ukrainian government.[37][38]

Amidst the ongoing war, the separatist republics held referendums on the status of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts on 11 May 2014. In the referendums, viewed as illegal by Ukraine and undemocratic by the international community, about 90% voted for the independence of the Donetsk People's Republic and the Luhansk People's Republic.[39] (Although the Russian word used, самостоятельность, (samostoyatel'nost) (literally "standing by oneself"), can be translated as either full independence or broad autonomy, which left voters confused about what their ballot actually meant.[40][39]) Fighting continued through 2014, and into 2015, despite several attempts at implementing a ceasefire. Ukraine said Russia provided both material and military support to the separatists, though it denied this.[41][42] The separatists were largely led by Russian citizens until August 2014.[41][42]

In January 11, 2017, the Cabinet of Ministers in Ukraine approved a plan for the reintegration of the region and population of Donbas.[43] The plan would give Russia partial control of the electorate and has been described by Zerkalo Nedeli as "implanting a cancerous cell into Ukraine’s body."[44]

Demographics and politics

Districts with a majority of native Russian speakers are shown in red (census 2001)

According to the 2001 census, ethnic Ukrainians form 58% of the population of Luhansk Oblast and 56.9% of Donetsk Oblast. Ethnic Russians form the largest minority, accounting for 39% and 38.2% of the two oblasts respectively.[45] Modern Donbass is a predominately Russophone region. According to the 2001 census, Russian is the main language of 74.9% of residents in Donetsk Oblast and 68.8% in Luhansk Oblast.[46] The proportion of native Russian-speakers is higher than ethnic Russians because some ethnic Ukrainians and other nationalities also indicate Russian as their mother tongue.

Residents of Russian origin are mainly concentrated in the larger urban centers. Russian became the main language and lingua franca in the course of industrialization, boosted by the immigration of many Russians, particularly from Kursk Oblast, to newly founded cities in Donbas. A subject of continuing research controversies, and often denied in these two oblasts, is the extent of forced emigration and deaths during the Soviet period, which particularly affected rural Ukrainians during the Holodomor which resulted as a consequence of early Soviet industrialization policies combined with two years of drought throughout southern Ukraine and the Volga region.[47][48]

Nearly all Jews, unless they fled, were wiped out during the German occupation in World War II. Donbass is about 6% Muslim according to the official censuses of 1926, 2001.

Prior to the Ukrainian crisis in 2013–14, the politics of the region were dominated by the Party of Regions, which gained about 50% of Donbass votes in the 2008 Ukrainian parliamentary election. Prominent members of that party, such as former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, were from the Donbass.

Donetsk dynamics
Demographic changes in Donetsk Oblast: the upper three columns depict language change over time, the lower three – ethnicity proportions.   Russian,   Ukrainian,   others (according to official censuses in 1926, 2001)

According to linguist George Shevelov, in the early 1920s the proportion of secondary schools teaching in the Ukrainian language was lower than the proportion of ethnic Ukrainians in Donbass[49] – even though the Soviet Union had ordered that all schools in the Ukrainian SSR should be Ukrainian-speaking (as part of its Ukrainization policy).[50]

Surveys of regional identities in Ukraine have shown that around 40% of Donbass residents claim to have a "Soviet identity".[51] Roman Horbyk of Södertörn University wrote that in the 20th century, "[a]s peasants from all surrounding regions were flooding its then busy mines and plants on the border of ethnically Ukrainian and Russian territories", "incomplete and archaic institutions" prevented Donbass residents from "acquiring a notably strong modern urban – and also national – new identity".[49]


Religion in Donbass (2016)[52]

  Eastern Orthodoxy (50.6%)
  Simply Christianity (11.9%)
  Islam (6%)
  Protestantism (2.5%)
  Hinduism (0.6%)
  Not religious (28.3%)

According to a 2016 survey of religion in Ukraine held by the Razumkov Center, 65.0% of the population in Donbass believe in Christianity (including 50.6% Orthodox, 11.9% who declared to be "simply Christians", and 2.5% who belonged to Protestant churches). Islam is the religion of 6% of the population of Donbass and Hinduism of the 0.6%, both the religions with a share of the population that is higher compared to other regions of Ukraine. People who declared to be not believers or believers in some other religions, not identifying in one of those listed, were 28.3% of the population.[52]


Donbass is dominated by heavy industry, such as coal mining and metallurgy. The region takes its name from an abbreviation of the term "Donets Coal Basin" (Ukrainian: Донецький вугільний басейн, Russian: Донецкий угольный бассейн), and while annual extraction of coal has decreased since the 1970s, Donbass remains significant supplier. Donbass represents one of the largest coal reserves in Ukraine having estimated reserves of 60 billion tonnes of coal.[53] Coal mining in Donbass is conducted at very deep depths. Lignite mining takes place at around 600 metres (2,000 ft) below the surface, whilst mining for more valuable anthracite and bituminous coal takes place at depths of around 1,800 metres (5,900 ft).[10] Prior to the start of the region's war in April 2014, Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts together produced about 30 percent of Ukraine's exports.[54] Other industries in Donetsk which may overlap Donbass include blast-furnace and steel-making equipment, railway freight cars, metal-cutting machine-tools, tunneling machines, agricultural harvesters and ploughing systems, railway tracks, mining cars, electric locomotives, military vehicles, tractors and excavators. The region also produces consumer goods like household washing-machines, refrigerators, freezers, TV sets, leather footwear, and toilet soap. Over half its production is exported, and about 22% is exported to Russia.[55]

In mid-March 2017, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko signed a decree on a temporary ban on the movement of goods to and from territory controlled by the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic and Luhansk People's Republic meaning that since then Ukraine does not buy coal from the Donets Coal Basin.[56]

Occupational safety in the coal industry

The coal mines of Donbass are some of the most hazardous in the world because of the deep depths of mines, as well as frequent methane explosions, coal dust explosions, rock burst dangers, and outdated infrastructure.[57] Even more hazardous illegal coal mines became very common across the region in the late 2000s.[6][58]

Environmental problems

Kalmius 01
Coal-mining spoil tips along the Kalmius river in Donetsk.

Intensive coal mining and smelting in Donbass have led to severe damage to the local environment. The most common problems throughout the region include:

Additionally, several chemical waste disposal sites in the Donbass have not been maintained, and pose a constant threat to the environment. One unusual threat is the result of the Soviet-era 1979 project to test experimental nuclear mining in Yenakiieve. For example, on September 16, 1979, at the Yunkom Mine, known today as the Young Communard mine in Yenakiyeve, a 300kt nuclear test explosion was conducted at 900m to free methane gas or to degasified coal seams into a sandstone oval dome known as the Klivazh [Rift] Site so that methane would not pose a hazard or threat to life.[59] Before Glasnost, no miners were informed of the presence of radioactivity at the mine, however.[59]

See also


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External links

2014 Donbass general elections

Elections were held on 2 November 2014 by the Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics. As a result of a war that started in April of the same year, these internationally unrecognised entities control parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts in eastern Ukraine, which are together called the Donbass region. The elections, the first of their kind since the establishment of either republic, were held to choose their chief executives and parliaments. In the Donetsk People's Republic, incumbent leader Alexander Zakharchenko won the post of chief executive, and his Donetsk Republic party gained a majority in parliament. In the Luhansk People's Republic, incumbent leader Igor Plotnitsky won the post of chief executive, and his Peace for Luhansk Region party gained a majority in parliament.

Neither the European Union nor the United States recognised the elections, which violate the terms of the Minsk Protocol, according to which local elections in the areas occupied by the DPR and LPR were supposed to be held on 7 December, in accordance with Ukrainian law. Russia, on the other hand, indicated that it would recognise the results as legitimate, although Ukraine had urged Russia to use its influence to stop the elections and "to avoid a frozen conflict". Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said that the election was an important step needed "to legitimise the [DPR and LPR] authorities". Russian presidential aide Yury Ushakov later qualified that the Russian Federation's position of respecting the results of the election does not necessarily mean an official recognition of the results.In Ukraine as a whole, following the February 2014 revolution, a presidential election had been held on 25 May, and parliamentary elections on 26 October. DPR and LPR authorities blocked these elections in the areas that they control. Those authorities had previously held largely unrecognised referendums on 11 May to approve the establishment of the two Republics.

2014 Donbass status referendums

Referendums on the status of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, parts of Ukraine that together make up the Donbass region, took place on 11 May 2014 in many towns under the control of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics. These referendums sought to legitimise the establishment of the republics, in the context of the rising pro-Russian unrest in the aftermath of the 2014 Ukrainian revolution. In addition, a counter-referendum on accession to Dnipropetrovsk Oblast was held in some Ukrainian-controlled parts of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.The results of the separatist referendums were not officially recognised by any government, including those of Ukraine, the United States, the countries of the European Union, and Russia. The Ukrainian government said that the referendum was illegal, and a number of nations—such as Germany, the United States, France, and Britain—said that the referendum was unconstitutional and lacked legitimacy. The Russian government expressed "respect" for the results and urged a "civilised" implementation.

2018 Donbass general elections

Elections were held on 11 November 2018 by the Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics. As a result of a war that started in April 2014, these internationally unrecognised entities control parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts in eastern Ukraine, which are together called the Donbass region. They previously held elections in 2014. Voters were asked to elect the Head of the People's Republic of Donetsk and Head of the People's Republic of Luhansk as well as the deputies for two parliaments: The People's Soviet of the Donetsk People's Republic with 100 seats, and the People's Soviet of the Luhansk People's Republic with 50 seats.

Alexander Khodakovsky

Alexander Sergeevich Khodakovsky (Russian: Алекса́ндр Серге́евич Ходако́вский, IPA: [ɐlʲɪˈksandr sʲɪrˈɡʲejɪvʲɪtɕ xədɐˈkofskʲɪj], Ukrainian: Олександр Сергійович Ходаковський Olexander Serhiyovich Khodakovsky) is the commander of the pro-Russian Vostok Battalion formed in early May 2014 during the 2014 insurgency in Donbass. Khodakovsky is a former commander of the Alpha special unit of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU). During the 2014 insurgency in Donbass, he left Ukrainian state service and became the leader of the pro-Russian "Patriotic Forces of Donbass" in Donetsk Oblast, and later (until July 16, 2014 when he was replaced by Vladimir Antyufeyev) the Security Minister of the Donetsk People's Republic. In May 2018 Khodakovsky relocated to Russia and in September 2018 he claimed that Russian border guards did not let him return to Donetsk.

Casualties of the Ukrainian crisis

The number of deaths in the Ukrainian crisis has climbed into the thousands since it started in late November 2013, with most of them occurring during the War in Donbass.

Donbas Battalion

The Donbass Battalion is a volunteered National Guard of Ukraine unit subordinate to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, based in Severodonetsk. The formation was established in the Spring of 2014 during the 2014 pro-Russian unrest in Ukraine. The battalion was created by Semen Semenchenko who is a major in the National Guard of Ukraine. The unit was initially formed as independent, but has been fully integrated into the National Guard of Ukraine as the 2nd Special Purpose Battalion "Donbas". From April 2014 to June 2014 - a non-governmental armed formation to protect Ukraine, from June 2014 to October 2016 – a special purpose battalion in the National Guard of Ukraine (NGU), from October 2016 to present - a non-governmental voluntary organization aimed at the protection of Ukraine.

Donbass Arena

Donbass Arena or Donbas Arena (Ukrainian: Донба́с Аре́на [donˈbɑs ɑˈrɛnɑ], Russian: Донба́сc Аре́на) is a stadium with a natural grass pitch in Donetsk, Ukraine (under occupation by the Donetsk People's Republic) that opened on 29 August 2009. The facility is located in the center of the city, in the Lenin Comsomol park. With a capacity of 52,518 spectators, the stadium used to host FC Shakhtar Donetsk matches and hosted some matches of Euro 2012. The final cost of construction for Donbass Arena was $400M. The stadium has been closed since 2014 due to the War in Donbass.

The name of the stadium represents the simplified and shortened name of the Donets Basin - huge industrial region of Donbas, hence – Donbas (in Ukrainian language: Донецький басейн or Донбас).

Donbass Strategic Offensive (August 1943)

The Donbass Strategic Offensive was a strategic operation of the Red Army on the Eastern Front of World War II with the goal of the liberation the Donbass. As a result of the Soviet victory, the contribution of the important economic region no longer benefited Nazi Germany, and by 1944 the Soviet Union had restarted its industrial operations in the region. As a byproduct of the Soviet offensive, the German forces was also forced to retreat from the Kuban.


Donetsk (Ukrainian: Донецьк [dɔˈnɛtsʲk]; Russian: Доне́цк [dɐˈnʲɛtsk]; former names: Aleksandrovka, Hughesovka, Yuzovka, Stalino (see also: cities' alternative names)) is an industrial city in Ukraine on the Kalmius River. The population was estimated at 929,063 (2016 est.) in the city, and over 2,000,000 in the metropolitan area (2011). According to the 2001 Ukrainian Census, Donetsk was the fifth-largest city in Ukraine.Administratively, it has been the centre of Donetsk Oblast, while historically, it is the unofficial capital and largest city of the larger economic and cultural Donets Basin (Donbass) region. Donetsk is adjacent to another major city of Makiivka and along with other surrounding cities forms a major urban sprawl and conurbation in the region. Donetsk has been a major economic, industrial and scientific centre of Ukraine with a high concentration of companies and a skilled workforce.

The original settlement in the south of the European part of the Russian Empire was first mentioned as Aleksandrovka in 1779, under the Russian Empress Catherine the Great. In 1869, Welsh businessman, John Hughes, built a steel plant and several coal mines in the region; the town was named Yuzovka (Юзовка) in recognition of his role ("Yuz" being a Russian-language approximation of Hughes). During Soviet times, the city's steel industry was expanded. In 1924, it was renamed Stalino, and in 1932 the city became the centre of the Donetsk region. Renamed Donetsk in 1961, the city today remains the centre for coal mining and steel industry.

Since April 2014, Donetsk and its surrounding areas have been one of the major sites of fighting in the ongoing Donbass War, as pro-Russian separatist forces have battled against Ukrainian military forces for control of the city and surrounding areas. Through the majority of the course of this war, the city of Donetsk has been administered by the pro-Russian separatist forces, with outlying territories of the Donetsk region being divided between the two sides.On June 27, 2014, the unrecognized nation of South Ossetia officially recognized the Donetsk People's Republic's independence from Ukraine.As of May 8, 2018, the Donetsk People's Republic has full control of the city, with Ukrainian and DPR forces still engaging in combat outside of the city.

HC Donbass

Hockey Club Donbass (Ukrainian: Хокейний Клуб Донбас; Russian: Хоккейный Клуб Донбасс, tr. Hokeinyi Klub Donbas) is a Ukrainian professional ice hockey team based in Druzhkivka, currently playing in the Ukrainian Hockey League.

HC Donbass is six times Ukrainian champion (2011, 2012, 2013, 2016, 2017, 2018).The team was a member of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) during the 2012–13 and 2013–14 seasons, and was the sole representative from Ukraine competing at the elite international level. Due to the War in Donbass, the team did not compete in the 2014–15 KHL season.

Borys Kolesnikov, a prominent Ukrainian politician and businessman, purchased the team in 2010, and from then until 2014 it was the most successful hockey club in Ukraine. The team takes its name from its geographic location in the heart of the Donets Basin (Donbas).

The club was founded in 2005 as Hockey Club Kolbiko-Donetsk and took part in the XIV Ukrainian Championship by competing in the First League. After three years of competing only in tournament play, the club returned to the Ukrainian Hockey Championship, and ascended to the Ukrainian Major League. In its fourth seasons of national competition beginning in 2008, the franchise won its first national title in 2011, before joining the Supreme Hockey League (VHL). The team also won the 2012–13 IIHF Continental Cup, becoming the first team from Ukraine to do so. Following the 2010–11 season, Donbass split into two teams with their affiliate, Donbass-2, representing the organization in the Professional Hockey League of Ukraine. Donbass-2 won its first title in 2012 during the inaugural PHL season, and its second title the following season for the organization. In 2013, Bilyi Bars began acting as HC Donbass' PHL affiliate, dissolving Donbass-2.

Humanitarian situation during the war in Donbass

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

A report by the United Nations said there had been an "alarming deterioration" in human rights in territory held by insurgents affiliated with the Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) and Luhansk People's Republic (LPR). The UN reported growing lawlessness in the region, documenting cases of targeted killings, torture, and abduction, primarily carried out by the forces of the Donetsk People's Republic. The UN also reported threats against, attacks on, and abductions of journalists and international observers, as well as the beatings and attacks on supporters of Ukrainian unity. A report by Human Rights Watch said "Anti-Kiev forces in eastern Ukraine are abducting, attacking, and harassing people they suspect of supporting the Ukrainian government or consider undesirable...anti-Kiev insurgents are using beatings and kidnappings to send the message that anyone who doesn't support them had better shut up or leave".Non-governmental organisations, such as Amnesty International, have also raised concerns about the behaviour of some Ukrainian volunteer battalions. Amnesty International said that they often acted like "renegade gangs", and were implicated in torture, abductions, and summary executions.In a report from the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission, Ivan Šimonović, UN Assistant Secretary General for Human Rights, wrote about illegal detention, abduction and intimidation of election officials in the self-proclaimed pro-Russian republics, and called for urgent action to prevent a Balkans-style war. He also warned of a humanitarian crisis due to a failure of social services in the region, and an exodus of people from affected areas. In October 2015, the DPR and LPR banned non-governmental organisations such as Doctors Without Borders and World Food Programme from the territory that they control. A report released on 3 March 2016 by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said that people that lived in separatist-controlled areas were experiencing "complete absence of rule of law, reports of arbitrary detention, torture and incommunicado detention, and no access to real redress mechanisms". In addition, the report noted "allegations of violations perpetrated with impunity by Ukrainian law enforcement officials—mainly elements of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU)—including enforced disappearances, arbitrary and incommunicado detention, and torture and ill-treatment".According to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), "The results of a psychosocial assessment of children in Donetsk Oblast in Eastern Ukraine are deeply troubling ... and indicate that about half of all children aged 7-18 have been directly exposed to adverse or threatening events during the current crisis." OSCE monitors spoke to refugees from Donetsk city in Zaporizhia. They said that men were "often not allowed" to leave the city, but were instead "forcibly enrolled in 'armed forces' of the so-called 'Donetsk People's Republic' or obliged to dig trenches".By June 2015, the conflict had created 1.3 million internally displaced people (IDPs). According to the OHCHR, this number had grown to 1.6 million people by early March 2016.

List of equipment used by separatist forces of the war in Donbass

This is a list of equipment of the United Armed Forces of Novorossiya currently used in the War in Donbass.

Minsk Protocol

The Protocol on the results of consultations of the Trilateral Contact Group, or simply Minsk Protocol, is an agreement to halt the war in the Donbass region of Ukraine, signed by representatives of Ukraine, the Russian Federation, the Donetsk People's Republic (DPR), and the Luhansk People's Republic (LPR) on 5 September 2014. It was signed after extensive talks in Minsk, Belarus, under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). The agreement, which followed multiple previous attempts to stop the fighting in the Donbass, implemented an immediate ceasefire. It failed to stop fighting in Donbass.

Novorossiya (confederation)

Novorossiya, Novorussia or New Russia (Russian: Новороссия, tr. Novorossiya, IPA: [nəvɐˈrosʲɪjə]; Ukrainian: Новоросія, romanized: Novorosiya), also referred to as the Union of People's Republics (Russian: Сою́з наро́дных респу́блик, tr. Soyuz Narodnykh Respublik, IPA: [sɐˈjus nɐˈrodnɨx rʲɪˈspublʲɪk]; Ukrainian: Союз народних республік, Soyuz Narodnykh Respublik), was a proposed confederation of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) and Luhansk People's Republic (LPR) in eastern Ukraine, both of which are under the control of pro-Russian separatists.At present, the two constituent republics of the proposed confederation have no diplomatic recognition, and Ukraine has classified them as terrorist organizations and refers to their territory as the Anti-Terrorist Operation Zone. The creation of Novorossiya was declared on 22 May 2014, and one month later spokesmen of both republics declared their merger into a confederal "Union of People's Republics". Within a year, the project was suspended: on 1 January 2015, founding leadership announced the project has been put on hold, and on 20 May the constituent members announced the freezing of the political project.

Separatist forces of the war in Donbass

Separatist forces of the War in Donbass, or the United Armed Forces of Novorossiya (Russian: Объединённые Вооруженные Силы Новороссии; acronym NAF) is the umbrella name for the militias and armed volunteer groups affiliated with the unrecognized political union called Novorossiya (New Russia). It consists of the Donbass People's Militia, the Luhansk People's Militia and autonomous armed groups. They are regarded as terrorist groups by the Government of Ukraine.The Donbass People's Militia was formed by Pavel Gubarev, who was elected "People's Governor" of Donetsk Oblast by pro-Russian protesters. It was originally involved in taking control of Ukrainian government buildings in the Donetsk Oblast. Tensions increased to the point of the militia being actively involved in fighting a war against the Ukrainian government in the Donbass region of Ukraine. The militia was accused by the Ukrainian government of culpability in the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 on 17 July 2014, but the Donetsk People's Republic disputed this claim. The militias of the Donetsk People's Republic and Luhansk People's Republic, merged into one group on 16 September 2014, forming the "United Armed Forces of Novorossiya".It is widely believed that the separatists are supported by Russian armed forces. Although the Russian government often denies direct involvement stating that their soldiers were there voluntarily and not under orders, some of them were detained riding their combat vehicles with documents proving their origin in Russian armed forces. A college director at the Donetsk Academy of Motor Transport living under the Donetsk People's Republic has been sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for taking pictures of Russian vehicles in Eastern Ukraine, under the accounts of "spying". Moreover, separatists admitted receiving supplies from Russia and being trained there. BBC reported that separatist ranks are composed of thousands of Russian citizens, and NATO accused Russia of deploying their regular troops into Ukraine. Registered Cossacks of the Russian Federation have been reported to be supporting separatists in the conflict as well. Head of the DPR, Alexander Zakharchenko, claimed in August 2014 that there are around 3,000 to 4,000 Russian volunteers fighting for the militia, which includes current and many retired Russian Army servicemen.

Somalia Battalion

Somalia Battalion (Russian: Батальон «Сомали») is one of the military units of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic in Ukraine which participates in the ongoing War in Donbass against Ukrainian army. The battalion's full name is 1st Separate Tank Battalion Somalia (previously 1st Separate Tactical Battalion Group Somalia). The battalion took the name "Somalia" because, according to its former commander Mikhail Tolstykh alias Givi, its members are as fearless as Somalis. According to Givi, 70% of the battalions personnel previously fought in the 1st Slavyansk Brigade.The unit is permanently stationed in Donetsk and Makiivka.

Timeline of the war in Donbass

The timeline for the War in Donbass is divided into the some periods listed below.

War in Donbass

The War in Donbass is an armed conflict in the Donbass region of Ukraine. From the beginning of March 2014, protests by pro-Russian and anti-government groups took place in the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts of Ukraine, commonly collectively called the "Donbass", in the aftermath of the 2014 Ukrainian revolution and the Euromaidan movement. These demonstrations, which followed the annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation (February to March 2014), and which were part of a wider group of concurrent pro-Russian protests across southern and eastern Ukraine, escalated into an armed conflict between the separatist forces of the self-declared Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics (DPR and LPR respectively), and the Ukrainian government. In the Donetsk People's Republic, from May 2014 until a change of the top leadership in August 2014, some of the top leaders were Russian citizens. According to the Ukrainian government, at the height of the conflict in mid-2014, Russian paramilitaries were reported to make up between 15% to 80% of the combatants.Between 22 and 25 August 2014, Russian artillery, personnel, and what Russia called a "humanitarian convoy" crossed the border into Ukrainian territory without permission of the Ukrainian government. Crossings occurred both in areas under the control of pro-Russian forces and in areas that were not under their control, such as the south-eastern part of Donetsk Oblast, near Novoazovsk. These events followed the reported shelling of Ukrainian positions from the Russian side of the border over the course of the preceding month. Head of the Security Service of Ukraine, Valentyn Nalyvaichenko characterised the events of 22 August as a "direct invasion by Russia of Ukraine", while other western and Ukrainian officials described the events as a "stealth invasion" of Ukraine by Russia. Russia's official position on the presence of Russian forces in Donbass has been vague: while official bodies have denied presence of "regular armed forces" in Ukraine, it has on numerous occasions confirmed presence of "military specialists", along with other euphemisms, usually accompanied by an argument that Russia "was forced" to deploy them to "defend the Russian-speaking population".As a result of the August 2014 events, DPR and LPR insurgents regained much of the territory they had lost during the Ukrainian government's preceding military offensive. Ukraine, Russia, the DPR and the LPR signed an agreement to establish a ceasefire, called the Minsk Protocol, on 5 September 2014. Violations of the ceasefire on both sides became common. Amidst the solidification of the line between insurgent and government-controlled territory during the ceasefire, warlords took control of swaths of land on the insurgent side, leading to further destabilisation. The ceasefire completely collapsed in January 2015, with renewed heavy fighting across the conflict zone, including at Donetsk International Airport and at Debaltseve. Involved parties agreed to a new ceasefire, called Minsk II, on 12 February 2015. Immediately following the signing of the agreement, separatist forces launched an offensive on Debaltseve and forced Ukrainian forces to withdraw from it. In the months after the fall of Debaltseve, minor skirmishes continued along the line of contact, but no territorial changes occurred. This state of stalemate led to the war being labelled a "frozen conflict"; the area stayed a war zone, with dozens of soldiers and civilians killed each month. In 2017, on average one Ukrainian soldier died in combat every three days, with the number of Russian and separatist troops remaining in the region estimated at 6,000 and 40,000 respectively. By the end of 2017, OSCE observatory mission had accounted for around 30,000 individuals in military-style dress crossing from Russia to Donbass just at two border checkpoints it was allowed to monitor.Since the start of the conflict there have been more than twenty ceasefires, each intended to remain in force indefinitely, but none of them stopped the violence. The most successful attempt to halt the fighting was in 2016, when a ceasefire held for six consecutive weeks. The latest ceasefire came into force on 8 March 2019, which led to a significant decrease of fighting in the following days (according to both combatants).

Zelenopillya rocket attack

The Zelenopillya rocket attack took place on 11 July 2014 during the War in Donbass. The rocket barrage launched by Russian forces from Russian territory killed 37 Ukrainian soldiers and border guards in a camp.

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