Right now, in the Donbas region of Ukraine, there are two quasi-states — the Luhansk People's Republic (LPR) and the Donetsk People's Republic (DPR). They emerged due to the events of the War in Donbas. Both receive humanitarian and likely military aid from Russia.

Given that they are in such dire straits as to need for humanitarian aid, this leads me to the following question. Why, given the few resources available within both regions, did the LPR and DPR secede from Ukraine as separate quasi-states, rather than secede as one quasi-state?


3 Answers 3


The official reason is that this would violate the Minsk II agreement. Minsk II refers to two republics and if they unite into one republic, this republic isn't covered by Minsk II anymore, which makes the agreement void.

The unofficial reason is that there are some disagreements between the governments of the two republics and neither of them would like to give up power.

There is not just one big pro-Russian group in the republics, there are many different factions, some of them not having much in common like Russian imperialists and communists. There are even more factions and while Donetsk is run by one of these factions, Lugansk is run by another.

There were even rumors that former DPR leader Zakharchenko, who was later assassinated, has organised, or at least supported, a coup in LPR. Here is a reference in English.

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    Some references would be helpful, particularly to the differences between the governments.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Feb 17, 2022 at 14:12
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    Can you provide a reference for those disagreements then? Even a speculative source seems better than no source at all.
    – JJJ
    Commented Feb 17, 2022 at 14:39
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    That's okay, If you can link to it, quote some text and provide a (rough) translation of your own or by using something like Google Translate then it's clear what the claims are based on.
    – JJJ
    Commented Feb 17, 2022 at 14:45
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    I found some references from Al Jazeera and the Warsaw Institute. I'll write up an answer, on second thought. Commented Feb 17, 2022 at 14:50
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    @convert: "faction" is indeed the right term to use here. A faction is a political or military group with a common goal, often competing with other factions for dominance. A "fraction" is just a piece of something bigger. You can say that a fraction of the people in the republics support imperialist ideas (i.e. not the majority), but if you want to express that these people are considered to form a political body with shared goals that also acts to reach these goals, you need to use the word faction.
    – Schmuddi
    Commented Feb 19, 2022 at 13:51

“Donetsk People’s Republic” (DPR) and “Luhansk People’s Republic” (LPR) are located in the easternmost provinces of Ukraine, bordering on Russia. The LPR holds more territory than DPR, although its population is about half the size of DPR (2.2 million people in LPR versus 4.4 million in DPR). LPR is poorer, more rural, and less industrialized. 50% of LPR's population are on pensions, primarily retirees.3

LPR was less politically prominent than Donetsk during the prior 20 years of Ukraine’s independence. Al-Jazeera tried to do a Vox-style explainer, about why the two break-away territories didn't do it together, as one, but came to the conclusion that "it was complicated".

In late 2013 and 2014, the LPR and DPR did make somewhat of an effort to break away together and form one entity, the “Union of the Peoples’ Republics of Novorossiya”. Their territories/the territories they occupy/their homes are adjacent. A unified entity of DPR and LPR was briefly considered as the nucleus of a far wider “Novorossiya” in Ukraine's east, possibly to include Crimea in the south. It didn't work out for a variety of reasons, one of which was that Putin wasn't eager to have them at that time.

Ossetia is even further south, and has been the only nation to recognize the DPR and LPR, other than the LPR and DPR, who recognize each other.

According to High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of @eu_commission Josep Borrell Fontelles via Twitter:

...if Putin recognized the non-government controlled areas of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts of Ukraine as independent entities. This recognition would be a clear violation of the Minsk agreements.

Since I began writing this answer about a week ago, Josep Borell Fontelles's concerns have morphed into reality. Things are moving fast (although external influences might be rushing them.)

If anything, the two regions seem to have grown closer to each other and to Russia since they broke away from Ukraine:

Both separatist regions have abandoned the Ukrainian hryvnia in favour of the Russian rouble as their official currencies. Local schools now follow the Russian national curriculum instead of that taught in Ukraine.


It's hard to be certain, but one reason appears to be that in late 2014-2019 Russia apparently attempted a détente of sorts with the West (over Ukraine), by abandoning or at least reducing the amount of Novorossiya-related propaganda/claims.

In the spring of 2014, for instance, Vladimir Putin referred to Donbas regions as being historically separate from Ukraine. “I’ll remind you: this is Novorossiya. Kharkov, Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson, Nikolayev and Odessa were not part of Ukraine during Tsarist times. These were all territories given to Ukraine in the 1920s by the Soviet government. Why [the Soviets] did that, only God knows”. Though Putin did not [then] go as far as to claim that Russia should reabsorb these lands, many have interpreted his comments as inspiration for the separatist cause. [...]

Starting in late 2014, mentions of Novorossiya by Putin or other state officials started to disappear. Belligerent rhetoric on state television describing the government in Kyiv as a fascist junta also diminished. In 2018, Sergei Glazyev, the Kremlin aide who initially spearheaded support for the Novorossiya idea, described its abandonment as a mistake – in effect acknowledging that Moscow had changed its plans or at least its aspirations. “We were supposed to free all of the [Ukrainian] south east. Why didn’t we free it? I think it was the result of Western provocation. … It was, I think, a blatant strategic error”.

And digging through 2015 articles, one finds some corroborating stories:

On May 20, the leaders of the Lugansk and Donetsk People’s Republics (LNR and DNR) announced the abandonment of the Novorossiya project, a hypothetical confederation of states in southeastern Ukraine stretching from Kharkiv to Odessa. DNR Foreign Minister Alexander Kofman said that the idea hadn’t attracted enough support outside the separatist territories. Oleg Tsaryov, the speaker of Novorossiya’s “Unitary Parliament” and a frequent guest on Russian television, offered a different explanation: “The work of Novorossiya [official] structures has been frozen because it does not conform to the [Minsk II] peace agreement signed in the presence of the Normandy Four countries [Ukraine, Russia, Germany, and France, on February 12].”

I'm guessing an additional reason is that DPR and LPR are each laying claim to a much wider territory than they actually control (each), and that claim is based on the pre-existing territorial division of Ukraine, i.e. they each claim the entire Ukrainian oblast, even though they control less than half the territory they claim. In the recent 2022 recognition that Putin gave to these entities (as independent states), he has made it clear he's recognizing their claims over the entire territories claimed by LPR/DPR, which means he supports them annexing further territory that was still controlled by Kyiv.

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