Mosco – Since April 2014, pro-Russian separatists in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions of eastern Ukraine have been waging a deadly battle against Ukrainian forces.
More than 6,000 people were killed during the year.
— 2014 —
April 6: Pro-Russian protesters seize official buildings – local government offices and the headquarters of the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) in many cities in eastern Ukraine, including Donetsk, Lugansk and Kharkiv. They declare autonomy from Ukraine following the ousting of Kremlin-backed leader Viktor Yanukovych. On April 7, they declared the People’s Republic of Donetsk (DNR), followed by the “republic” of Lugansk on April 27.
April 12: Pro-Russian separatists take control of the city of Slaviansk and make it their stronghold. The city was only taken back under the control of the Ukrainian army on July 5.
April 14: Ukraine’s interim President Oleksandr Turchynov signs the decree to initiate measures to “counter terrorist threat(s) and ensure the territorial integrity of Ukraine” – which becomes known as the ‘Anti-Terrorist Operation’ East (ATO).
May 2: More than 40 people are killed in the coastal city of Odessa, in southern Ukraine, during clashes between pro-Ukrainians and separatist supporters. Most of the victims perish in a fire after a building with dozens of pro-Russian protesters caught fire under the crossfire of bullets and Molotov cocktails.
The violence raises fears that the separatist uprising could spread to southern Ukraine and trigger a Russian response.
May 11: A self-proclaimed referendum on the independence of the “people’s republics” of Donetsk and Lugansk records an overwhelming “yes” vote.
The vote is deemed illegitimate by Kiev and the West who fear a scenario similar to Crimea, seized by Russia and formally annexed in March following a disputed referendum. Moscow reacts with “respect”, but without formally recognizing the small rebel states.
May 25: Billionaire chocolatier Petro Poroshenko is elected Ukrainian president in a boycotted vote in rebel territory on the pretext that he will crush the uprising.
As Poroshenko’s victory is confirmed, pro-Russian separatists seize Donetsk’s state-of-the-art airport. The Ukrainian army partially regains control following airstrikes, triggering months of clashes over the transport hub which is not fully captured by the rebels until January.
July 5: The rebels abandon their stronghold of Slavyansk for the main center of Donetsk in the face of a government assault. The capture of the key city marks the beginning of a brief period of gains for the Ukrainian forces.
July 17: Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crashes in eastern Ukraine in an area controlled by pro-Russian separatists, presumably shot down by a surface-to-air missile. All 298 people on board are killed.
August 19: Pro-Russian separatist forces turn the tide of the government, surround Ukrainian troops in the Ilovaisk railroad hub, in their biggest defeat yet with over a hundred soldiers killed. Kiev accuses Moscow of having sent Russian troops to carry out the operation, claims denied by the Kremlin.
September 5: A ceasefire agreement is reached in Minsk between Russia, Ukraine, pro-Moscow separatists and international observers, with a roadmap for peace presented later on September 20. The agreement, however, fails to end the violence.
November 2: The separatist regions of eastern Ukraine hold leadership elections, denounced by Kiev as a violation of the peace agreement. Former electrician Alexander Zakharchenko consolidates his position at the head of the Donetsk “republic” while Igor Plotnitsky becomes his counterpart in Lugansk.
November 5: Ukraine announces the end of public funding for separatist regions. But Kiev says it won’t cut off water and gas to avert a humanitarian catastrophe.