Where are the breakaway regions of Ukraine? Ukrainian separatist map
Moscow's recognition of Donetsk and Luhansk as independent signalled the start of Russia's invasion into Ukraine, but where are the two separatist regions?
Earlier this week President Vladimir Putin declared that Russia was officially recognising the self-proclaimed ‘People's Republics’ of Donetsk (DPR) and Luhansk (LPR) as independent from Ukraine.
"I deem it necessary to make a decision that should have been made a long time ago to immediately recognize the independence and sovereignty of the Donetsk People's Republic and Luhansk People's Republic," Putin said of the decision.
Follow all the latest breaking developments...
The two areas are found in the Donbas region of Eastern Ukraine which shares a border with Russia. On Tuesday Duma, the Russian parliament, voted not only to recognise the breakaway regions but also to allow Putin to use Russia’s vast military for ‘peace-keeping’ missions there.
Recognition of the contentious Republics has allowed Putin to move troops over the border while claiming that he is not infringing on Ukrainian territory.
When did the Donbas region breakaway from Ukraine?
Russia became the first nation to recognise the independent of Donetsk and Luhansk, doing so years after separatists first took control in the regions. The split first occurred in 2014 when Russian forces annexed Crimea, a Ukrainian peninsula in the Black Sea.
At that time Russia did not launch an offensive into the Donbas but enclaves of pro-Russian sentiment in the region saw it descend into chaos. The two republics to have arisen from have been ruled by a variety of civilian and military governments over the past eight years, typically swaying between Russian citizens with ties to intelligence agencies and locals with more modest backgrounds.
Violence has characterised the political landscape since the region split from Ukraine. In 2015 a number of separatist paramilitary commanders were killed in coordinated ambushes. In 2018 the President of the Donetsk People’s Republic, Aleksandr Zakharchenko, died after a bombing attack on a restaurant.
Separatists claim the entirety of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions as their territory but at time of writing they only control about one-third of the region. As such it is not yet clear exactly what region President Putin has recognised as independent from Ukraine.
As this map shows, the Donetsk and Luhansk regions cover a huge area along the Eastern flank of Ukraine and the nation would be dramatically smaller if all the territory was lost.
Shortly before the Duma vote to allow military incursion into the region. Russia’s interior minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev said that Moscow could choose to recognise the "historical borders" of the Donbas region, before their "occupation by Ukraine.”