Conflict Summary

Since April 2014, pro-Russian separatists have been battling Ukrainian forces in eastern regions of the country. The rebellion, which has received material, personnel, and direct military support from Moscow, followed Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March. Separatists capitalised on the resentments and fears of the residents of the predominantly Russian-speaking Donetsk and Luhansk regions following the overthrow of the regime of President Viktor Yanukovych in February and its replacement by a government dominated by Western Ukrainians. In early April, they sought to establish independent ‘People’s Republics’ regions by taking over administrative buildings in a dozen towns and cities. Kyiv responded by launching a military assault – dubbed an ‘anti-terrorist operation’ to justify the use of the army inside the country – to regain control. The fighting ebbed and flowed since, through repeated diplomatic attempts to ‘de-escalate’ the situation, the downing of a Malaysian passenger jet over the warzone on July 17, Western sanctions on Russia, and an aggressive ‘information war’.  At the end of August, when the Ukrainian government forces appeared to have nearly routed the separatists, the Russian military intervened directly and decisively, forcing Kyiv to sue for peace. The situation gained a degree of stability following the signing of two ceasefire agreements in September and additional measures in December. Nevertheless, by mid-December 2014 the UN estimated that more than 4,700 people had been killed.

  • Protests began in Kyiv in November 2013 after President Yanukovych failed to sign a much-anticipated EU trade agreement;
  • After nearly 90 ‘Euromaidan’ protesters were killed 18–20 February, Yanukovych signed a power-sharing deal with opponents, which collapsed nearly immediately. He fled to Russia and a new government took power;
  • Armed ‘little green men’ in camouflage but no insignia seized the Crimean parliament and other key installations in late February. In a disputed referendum on 16 March, Crimeans voted to join Russia;
  • Rebels seized a dozen cities, including Donetsk, Luhansk, Slovyansk and Kramatorsk, in early April, and began shooting down Ukrainian military aircraft;
  • The Ukrainian military, with the help of volunteer battalions, mounted a campaign over the summer, successfully retaking many separatist-controlled areas;
  • The Russian military intervened directly in late August, decimating the Ukrainian forces and compelling Kyiv to sue for peace;
  • Separatists have maintained de facto control in territory to the south and east of a line of contact that begins at the Russian border east of Luhansk city, wraps around Donetsk city and ends near Shyrokyne on the Sea of Azov.
  • A Trilateral Contact Group met twice in Minsk in September 2014, signing agreements designed to de-escalate the conflict; while there was a decrease in violence, hostilities could still be renewed as both sides reinforce their positions along the front lines.

  • 13,517
    Fatalities since 2013
    IDPs (2015)

  • Non State Parties
    • - Donetsk People’s Republic
    • - Luhansk People’s Republic
    • - Pro-separatist paramilitaries (includes: Vostok, Oplot, Kalmius Battalions, Miner Division, Russian Orthodox Army, Army of the Southeast)
    • - Pro-Kyiv paramilitaries (includes: Aidar, Azov, Dnipro, Donbass, Donetsk, Ukraine Battalions)
    • - Russian volunteers and mercenaries
    State Parties
    • - Russian Federation (gov of)
    • - Ukraine (gov of)

    • Separatism
    • Rebellion
  • 10 September
    Armed clashes / Violent incidents

    A spokesperson for the Ukrainian defence ministry reports that one Ukrainian serviceman is killed and two others are wounded in Donbas over the past 24 hours.

  • 9 September
    Peacekeeping / Peacebuilding

    The Ukrainian Mission to the United Nations submits a draft resolution on the deployment of a UN peacekeeping mission to Donbas.

  • 8 September
    Armed clashes / Violent incidents

    Timur Makhauri, a Georgian citizen who fought in a Ukrainian volunteer battalion in Donbas, is killed in a car blast in Kiev. Two other civilians are injured in the explosion. Authorities investigate the incident as a possible terror attack.

  • 7 September
    Foreign relations
    In his annual state of the nation address to the Ukrainian Rada, President Petro Poroshenko states that Russia is the main military threat to the country, adding that Moscow’s Zapad 2017 military exercise with Belarus may be used to invade Ukraine.

  • 6 September
    Peacekeeping / Peacebuilding / Human security

    The Chief Monitor of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe Special Monitoring Mission (OSCE SMM), Ertugrul Apakan, calls on all sides to the conflict to respect the freedom of movement of the SMM. Citing the half-year report on the limitations and impediments for the OSCE SMM to Ukraine, Apakan states that during the first half of 2017 OSCE monitors had experienced 480 instances where their freedom of movement was restricted or impeded. 

  • 6 September
    Peace process

    After a meeting of the Trilateral Contact Group in Minsk, a representative from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe reports that ceasefire violations have decreased by 67% since the 'school ceasefire' entered into force on 25 August.

  • 5 September
    Peacekeeping / Peacebuilding / Foreign relations
    Russian President Vladimir Putin confirms that his foreign ministry will submit a draft resolution to the UN Security Council concerning the deployment of a UN peacekeeping mission in Donbas. According to Moscow, the peacekeepers’ mandate should be the protection of OSCE monitors along the Line of Contact between Ukrainian and separatist forces.
  • 4 September
    Armed clashes / Violent incidents
    A spokesman for the Ukrainian defence ministry reports that two Ukrainian servicemen were wounded in action over the past week, and that no servicemen were killed.
  • 1 September
    Foreign relations
    The EU–Ukraine Association Agreement formally enters into force. Substantial parts of the agreement have been applied provisionally since 1 November 2014 (1 January 2016 in the case of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement). President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker says that the agreement will ensure closer political cooperation and stronger economic ties between Ukraine and the EU.
  • 1 September
    Armed clashes / Violent incidents / Peacekeeping / Peacebuilding
    The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe Special Monitoring Mission (OSCE SMM) reports an increase in ceasefire violations in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, after observing a temporary decrease in violations. It also reports the placement of 112 proscribed heavy weapons in the first days of the ‘school ceasefire’ in violation of the Minsk agreement.