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Russian people's militias in Ukraine

Pro-Russian paramilitary groups in eastern Ukraine / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The People's Militia of the Donetsk People's Republic and People's Militia of the Luhansk People's Republic are pro-Russian paramilitaries in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, under overall control of the Russian Federation.[5] They are also referred to as Russian separatist forces or Russian proxy forces. They were affiliated with the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) and Luhansk People's Republic (LPR) during the war in Donbas (2014–2022), the first stage of the Russo-Ukrainian War. They then supported the Russian Armed Forces against the Ukrainian Armed Forces during the 2022 Russian invasion. In September 2022, Russia annexed the DPR and LPR, and began integrating the paramilitaries into its armed forces.[6] They are designated as terrorist groups by the government of Ukraine.[7]

Quick facts: Russian people's militias in Ukraine, Founded...
Russian people's militias in Ukraine
The Flag of Novorossiya, which was used as a battle flag by separatist forces
FoundedMarch 2014 (as the Donbas People's Militia)
Supreme Commanders-in-ChiefDonetsk People's Republic Denis Pushilin
Luhansk People's Republic Leonid Pasechnik
Commanders of the People's Militia DirectorateDonetsk People's Republic Major General Denis Sinenkov[1]
Luhansk People's Republic Guards Colonel Yan Leshchenko[2]
Active personnel~44,000 (2021)[3]
Foreign suppliersFlag_of_Russia.svg Russia[4]
Related articles
HistoryRusso-Ukrainian War

The separatist paramilitaries were formed during the 2014 pro-Russian unrest in Ukraine. The Donbas People's Militia was formed in March 2014 by Pavel Gubarev, who proclaimed himself "People's Governor" of Donetsk Oblast,[8] while the Army of the South-East was formed in Luhansk Oblast. The Donbas war began in April 2014 after these groups seized Ukrainian government buildings in the Donbas, leading the Ukrainian military to launch its Anti-Terrorist Operation against them.

During the Donbas war, Russian far-right groups were heavily involved in recruiting for the separatists, and many far-right activists joined them and formed volunteer units.[9][10] The Russian separatists have been held responsible for war crimes, among them the shootdown of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17[11] and the Mariupol rocket attacks, which they have denied.[12] The militias were also responsible for illegal abductions, detention, and torture of civilians of the Donbas.[13]

The separatist paramilitaries were supported by, and were proxies of, the Russian Armed Forces.[14] Ukraine, the United States, and some analysts deemed them to be under the command of Russia's 8th Guards Combined Arms Army.[15][16][17][18] Although the Russian government often denied direct involvement, evidence suggested otherwise.[19] The separatists admitted receiving weaponry and supplies from Russia, being trained there, and having thousands of Russian citizens in their ranks.[19][20][21] By September 2015, the separatist units, at the battalion level and up, were acting under the command of Russian Army officers.[22] In 2023, Russia acknowledged separatists who fought in the Donbas war as being Russian combat veterans.[23]

Although called "militias",[24] shortly before the 2022 Russian invasion, the separatist republics began forced conscription of men to fight for Russia.[25][26][27] The Donbas conscripts have been described as the "cannon fodder" of the Russian forces;[28][29] by November 2022 the casualty rate of the separatist units was almost 50%, according to official separatist sources.[29]