Donetsk-Luhansk-Ukraine-Russia: Another Round in a Frozen but Deadly Struggle


René Wadlow – TRANSCEND Media Service

19 Nov 2018 – On 11 November, while French President Emmanuel Macron was warning the assembled heads of government in Paris on the dangers of the narrow nationalism which had led to the 1914-1918 war, people in the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics of eastern Ukraine were voting in an effort to strengthen narrow nationalism.  Since 2014, the eastern, largely Russian-speaking populations of eastern Ukraine have created two republics: Donetsk and Luhansk.

For those who support these people’s republics, the separation from Ukraine was justified by the long-standing cultural and economic ties to what is now the Russian Federation.  For those who oppose the two republics, the republics are only agents of Moscow to weaken the Ukrainian Government and its pro-European Union policies.

Fighting broke out between Ukrainian forces and those of the Donetsk and Luhansk Republics almost at the start.  The United Nations, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the European Union were quickly concerned fearing that violence would spread.

The Russian Federation organized elections in Crimea, then part of Ukraine. The majority in Crimea voted to join the Russian Federation, which then annexed Crimea in March 2014.  The European Union and the United States did not recognize this vote as legitimate and opposed the Russian annexation of Crimea.  The European Union and the U.S.A. initiated economic sanctions against the Russian Federation on the Crimean issue. These sanctions are still largely in place.  The sanctions have had a negative impact on the Russian economy as well as the European Union which had to replace the Russian Federation for its products.

Fighting between Ukraine and the separatist Donetsk-Luhansk forces which had been aided by “unmarked” Russian soldiers was limited after negotiations held in Minsk in September 2014 and February 2015.  Since then the armed conflict has been “frozen” but with periodic armed attacks and frequent shelling. It is estimated that over 10,000 people have been killed.  The economy of Donetsk and Luhansk, important from industry during the Soviet period, has been largely destroyed.

The Association of World Citizens has been actively concerned with the armed conflicts in Ukraine, the two People’s Republics and the increased tensions between the Russian Federation with the European Union and the U.S.A.  The Association has made proposals for con-federation, autonomy, and trans-frontier cooperation in the conflicts which arose from the breakup of the Soviet Union: Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia, Transnistra in Moldova, Nagorno Karabagh still torn between Armenia and Azerbaijan as well as the ill-fated Chechen Republic within the Russian Federation.  Unfortunately, none of these constitutional proposals were acted upon, and each conflict remains “frozen” but with many people displaced.

In each case, there should be creative thinking on constitutional issues concerning questions of the balance of power between central and local governments, on issues of authority among the executive, legislative and judiciary, as well as means for trans-frontier cooperation as each unit is tied to the areas of which it had been a part.

With Ukraine, the conflicts have brought to the fore questions of historic memories, of language, of the geographic base of power, of political ideologies and even the structure of the Orthodox churches. Seen from a distance, there seem to be few socio-cultural bridge-builders to deal with day-to-day relations among people, on their willingness to cooperate,      and reconciliation of historic divisions.

For the moment, the 11 November elections have only confirmed existing leadership within Donetsk and Luhansk.  Thus, the call is still out for bridge-builders.


René Wadlow is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment. He is President of the Association of World Citizens, an international peace organization with consultative status with ECOSOC, the United Nations organ facilitating international cooperation and problem-solving in economic and social issues, and editor of Transnational Perspectives.


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 19 Nov 2018.

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