The people of Ukraine seem to be of two minds. Some (mostly in the West) want a west-leaning Ukraine free from Russia. Others (mostly in the East), want a Ukraine that's part of, or at least tied to Russia.

"Partition" was the solution adopted to settle the differences between India and Pakistan in 1947

Are there viable constituencies for the partition of Ukraine, east and west, with the two parts going their separate ways?

Or would this be de-stablilizing because pro-and anti-Russian elements are quite thoroughly mixed in Ukraine, and the unacceptability of partition to foreign powers? Are there economic considerations that would dissuade most Ukrainians from supporting a partition?

  • It's more complicated than that. There are economic ties. etc...
    – user4012
    Jul 20, 2014 at 4:16
  • @DVK: OK, added your point to the question.
    – Tom Au
    Jul 20, 2014 at 14:18

3 Answers 3


The answer is No, due to three major reasons:

  • Citizenship: Those who are supposed to "separate" don't have right to do that as they are not citizens of Ukraine;
  • Legal issues: The Constitution of Ukraine requires such actions to be asked on a national referendum. Geo-political orientation of vast majority of citizens of Ukraine is for unitary country, partnering with and/or taking membership in EU;
  • Territory: Referendum votes on territories that Russia has occupied and where the separatist movement is most powerful (2.2% of territory) — are not sufficient;

Who are supposed to "separate"

You can't be a "separatist" when you don't even have citizenship of the country you're trying to "separate" from.

The top commandment of those "rebels" and "separatists" are holding Russian passports, and vast majority of them are acting officers of Russian army.

  • Igor Bezler, Lt.Col. of General Staff of russian intelligence, a citizen of Russia, a leader of Luhans'k "People Republic";
  • Igor Girkin, Col. of General Staff of russian intelligence, a citizen of Russia, a leader of Donets'k "People Republic";
  • Alexander Borodai, Major-General (* by 2002), a citizen of (guess what) Russia, "Prime-Minister" of Donets'k "People Republic". This article (in Russian) says that in 2002 he was assigned Deputy Director of Information Policy and "Special Projects" of KGB.
    Let me repeat, a Deputy Director in KGB;

(Note: Pravda.ru is the official mainstream newspaper, controlled by Russian gov't.)

As it becomes clear, these people are not just farmers who decided to join "rebel" movement. They are acting officers of russian military and/or KGB, holding top positions and specialized in "arranging delicate operations" (see the linked article).

"Separation" for them is simply taking return ticket to Russia. Hopefully, they have time to do it before they get neutralized in a battle.


According to the Constitution of Ukraine, questions about territorial integrity can be changed only with nationwide referendum. Simply speaking, you can't declare your house an independent state unless 50%+1 Ukrainian citizens let you do that.

The actual geo-political orientation of citizens of Ukraine

By region

Orientation (image courtesy of Washington Post)

Many of people who really wanted to separate, actually wanted back in USSR, not "back to Russia". After occupation of Crimea they realized the whole picture, and the number of those who want "back in USSR" may have reduced dramatically.

Currently occupied territory

Phrases "mostly in West" and "mostly in East" look biased because they make a reader think that Ukrainian citizens are split nearly 50/50 regarding this question. The truth is opposite.

This picture says: "Novorossiya" ** as a russian sees it (left) and as it really is (right).

Russian-Ukrainian front

(**) "Novorossiya" is an artificial term Putin has invented during one of his recent interviews, calling such areas occupied by Russian army or supposed to be occupied.

This map shows the front line of Russian-Ukrainian war as of noon, July/20. It is evident that Russian army holds about 25% of Donetsk Oblast' and about 25% of Luhansk Oblast'. In total it is about 13,000 sq.km, which stands for 13 / 603 ~ 2.2% of the territory of Ukraine.

Front Line 20-July

just a note, the border between the two Oblast's is roughly the line where MH-17 crash site is depicted

Summary. It is not about "separation". It is Russian war against Ukraine, a covert operation ran by regular russian army that is intended to look like rebels are attempting to "separate" from Ukraine. There's simply no electorate wanting to Russia, and my personal feeling that since March 2014 (see the Washington Post info-graphics) that number has been reduced two- or three-fold.

  • 3
    Amazing answer!
    – user4012
    Jul 20, 2014 at 20:55
  • 14
    Pure propaganda. While Russia is i.m.o. wrong with the way they have acted, this does not mean that there is a significant fraction of the population in Eastern Ukraine that are "Pro-Russian". Also, per the Kosovo precedent, the domestic constitution does not forbid people to start an insurgency. So, saying that the Ukrainian constitution doesn't allow for something isn't really relevant to this question. Jul 27, 2014 at 1:34
  • 3
    @bytebuster "who else, besides of the KGB commandment, can give orders to acting Major-Generals of KGB?" Where did you get the information, that they are acting Major-Generals of FSB (sorry, nobody in Russia says "KGB" anymore)? I don't see, any solid proofs, that Borodai is a major general (looks like a myth): en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Borodai. Girkin and Bezler are former officers, not acting.
    – user4035
    Feb 7, 2015 at 6:27
  • 2
    @bytebuster "Do you trust gazeta "Pravda"?" No. It's not an official newspaper for a long time. Don't trust this crap.
    – user4035
    Feb 7, 2015 at 18:04
  • 3
    @bytebuster speaking of Novorossiya, don't forget that the modern day Southern Luhansk Oblast and Eastern Donetsk Oblast (incl. Makiivka, left bank of Mariupol, etc) belonged to both the Don Host Oblast (in 1900, capital: Novocherkassk, Russia) of the Russian Empire, and the Russian SFSR (in 1918 for example) Sep 7, 2016 at 23:04

I think autonomy is the only viable solution. The fundamental problem in Ukraine is the lack of consensus for the current political system. It is a typical Western mistake to think that a democracy works when it has institutions a constitutions and you just enforce the rules of the system. That this is false is clear if you look at Afghanistan, former Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya, etc. etc.. If, say, 10% of the population do not accept the system, then one cannot address that problems from within that system, unless that system is a repressive system (if 10% of the population start to engage in illegal protests, then there is no way you can arrest, prosecute and jail them). A free democratic state is by definition not run by a such a repressive system, so it will (paradoxically) be vulnerable to opposition by a small minority.

But if democratic systems are so vulnerable from being overthrown by small minorities, how come this doesn't happen in the US or Western Europe? The answer is that these democracies evolved slowly over the last few centuries. While there were revolutions, on average, the changes in the system during each generation have been small. As people grow up, go to school etc., they end up being indoctrinated to value the system as it exists. The system then works because the vast majority of the people who voted for the losing candidate value the system more than getting their way. So, you don't get arguments about the fundamentals of the system every time a controversial political topic comes up, these are settled and not typically under discussion.

The situation in Ukraine is radically different from that in Western democracies. There were strong divisions in the country between the pro-Western camp and the pro-Russian camp for many years. This lead to weak leadership, obviously it is then almost impossible to take harsh economic measures to make the economy healthy. This is why e.g. Poland has been doing much better than Ukraine economically since the break-up of the Soviet Union.

Eventually Ukraine was headed for a meltdown simply because the country had to make important decisions that the political system could not make. Joining the EU implies implementing economic reforms that will hurt many people in the East while not joining Europe was unacceptable to the vast majority in the West. What we can see today is that the government in Ukraine does not have much authority in the East, the local population are not loyal enough for democratic rule to be effective.

The Ukrainian army has been deployed to deal with the rebels, but this is a symptom that the system is failing. The West has accussed Russia of manufacturing the crisis. While the facts the West cites about Russian involvement are correct, that does not prove the Western narrative that there would not be a problem had Russia stayed out. At most the Ukrainian government could have imposed their rule on the East more easily, but not without repression (e.g. invoking the newly passed laws that make calls for succession illegal etc.) The Russian involvement has simply empowered the Ukrainains in the East who oppose Kiev to make their point, this has resulted in bloody clashes. The West has been supporting the Ukrainian government side because the West believes in upholding the democratic system and will tend to blame the rebels who fight it and the people who support the rebels.

The only possible solution within a democratic framework is a to change the system that has a big consensus in favor of it. Many of the rebels can live with autonomy instead of independence or becoming part of Russia. To most of the people who oppose the rebels, autonomy is also acceptable. Clearly, this means that one has to negotiate on this basis.

  • "how come this doesn't happen in the US or Western Europe?" - actually it does. Basques. Northern Ireland. La Reqonquista in USA (that's pretty peaceful for now. But it will change).
    – user4012
    Jul 20, 2014 at 20:56
  • 2
    Also, autonomy WAS the solution being discussed pretty widely before Russia stuck their long knives in.
    – user4012
    Jul 20, 2014 at 20:59
  • Yes, these are the small exceptional cases. But then note that the ETA is a tiny fraction of the local population and yet they cause big trouble. So, this underlines the fact that you need quite a large consensus for the system to make it work. Jul 20, 2014 at 22:18
  • 1
    I think Russia deliberately provoked Ukraine and the West. Putin's plan after he annexed Crimea, was to make Ukraine believe that the same scenario was about to unfold in the East, and Ukraine took the bait. So, I think Putin's plan is for the government to retake the territory they lost to the rebels, but then to find themselves in a worse position than before. Due to the heavy civilian casualties in Eastern Ukraine, the pro-Russian agenda is far more popular. Jul 20, 2014 at 22:28
  • @CountIblis I fully agree with the start of the answer, however not with the end. The breakout was not started by rebels but by Russia's regular army.
    – Bregalad
    Aug 6, 2015 at 7:58

The answer is "yes". On the referendum in 2014 over 89% of the Donetsk residents and over 96% of Luhansk residents voted "yes" to the Act of State Self-rule. This is the will of 6.5 millions which is clearly enough to partition Ukraine.

EDIT 2: Whether Ukraine or any other state see this referendum as legal is irrelevant for this question as long as we trust the results.

I don't see how this would destabilize Ukraine further. It was already at war with Donetsk and Luhansk. There is also not enough resistance in the Ukraine itself.

Currently USA, Germany, France and Russia all support the autonomy of the two regions under Minsk II package of measures. I doubt any of them would oppose the partition if the government of Ukraine would agree with it.

EDIT: Under "autonomy" in the previous paragraph I mean what is described in point 11 of the Minsk II protocol. From Wikipedia:

  1. Constitutional reform in Ukraine, with a new constitution to come into effect by the end of 2015, the key element of which is decentralisation (taking into account peculiarities of particular districts of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, agreed with representatives of these districts), and also approval of permanent legislation on the special status of particular districts of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts in accordance with the measures spelt out in the attached footnote,[note 1] by the end of 2015.

Ukraine cut almost all economic ties to the Donbass region by itself so this should not be a problem at all.

  • 2
    -1: this post has no credible references; there was no voting in Donets'k or Luhans'k; what was there can't be claimed legal as it occurred under the gun of the occupants. Neither is any «state» «self-rule» on occupied territories, they are (and were from the very beginning) managed by the top russian officials. Also, the claim about Minsk-2 agreement is blatantly false; no statements about «autonomy» is there. Sep 4, 2016 at 15:57
  • see my edit about "autonomy"
    – kaboom
    Sep 5, 2016 at 20:02
  • Wow, Putin personally answered this question. Amazing !!
    – Bregalad
    Sep 6, 2016 at 19:31

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