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Russian chess supergrandmaster Sergey Karjakin (Pro-Putin, but Ukrainian-born) says in tweets here and here to international master Kostya Kavutskiy:

Have you also collected money for the residents of Donbass, whom the Ukrainian army has been bombing for the last 8 years? You can come there and go, for example, to the Alley of Angels, which was built in honor of the children of Donbass who died from the shelling of Ukrainian criminals. Still funny?

What is the meaning exactly of Ukraine was bombing Donbass for 8 years? In particular, I checked Wikipedia Russo-Ukrainian War, and it looks like just 1 year: 2014–2015 war in Donbas.

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3 Answers 3

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The war in Donbas has lasted for the past 8 years: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_the_war_in_Donbas

In particular, the current battle over Sloviansk and Kramatorsk is largely a reversal of a similar 2014 battle, when Ukraine recaptured it from the Donbas republics: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siege_of_Sloviansk

The war went mostly in Ukraine's favor. By 2017, Ukrainian forces reached to only a few miles away from Donetsk, one of the capitals, making it vulnerable. However, throughout the war, it appears that capturing large cities has proven very difficult for either side.

The Ukrainian-populated cities have stayed with Kyiv. The cities that were part of the initial uprising have stayed with the rebels. The cities that were on the edge have changed hands, sometimes several times. For instance, Sloviansk initially had popular protests, but the police only surrendered when DNR forces arrived, rather than switch sides outright.

Another difference that probably explains the war's low publicity in 2015-2021 is that the fighting was between Ukraine and its internal separatist movement, while Russia restricted its involvement to covert support and equipment for the latter. It just isn't as exciting a story.

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    1. The article simply skips over that part as less important. 2. I can't comment on the personalities. The short story is, two mostly-Russian regions split off from Ukraine in 2014, trying to follow Crimea, and Ukraine has been attempting to reconquer them for 8 years. Like any war in a populated area, it involved civilian and child casualties.
    – HK-51
    Jul 9 at 12:50
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    Yes, for (3) and (4), IDK who is pro-whom. I think there's also a position that neither side was right in resolving this through warfare.
    – HK-51
    Jul 9 at 13:52
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    @BCLC They'd have to be. But the reverse is not always the case. It's possible to support the people of Donbas, but disagree on what means are best for helping them.
    – HK-51
    Jul 9 at 20:07
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    Isn't it a little bit (or a lot) disingenuous to say "[in 2014] Ukraine took [Sloviansk] from the Donbas republics" without mentioning that the Donbas "republic" had taken Sloviansk from Ukraine immediately before that?
    – user253751
    Jul 11 at 13:22
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    @user253751 It's a simple statement of fact, and the context regarding DNR's legitimacy is well-known. I've addressed this as a military question, avoiding the latter debate.
    – HK-51
    Jul 12 at 4:42
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The claim about "bombing for the last 8 years" is certainly true if one speaks of shelling. Aircraft operations have been negligible 2016-2021, or at least no source I looked at mentioned them. But shelling there was plenty, i.e. this was definitely not a "frozen conflict" even after 2015, unless one euphemistically applies that notion to the mostly static nature of the front lines during this period.

The OSCE SMM reports for Ukraine are probably the most detailed source when it comes to shelling, but they are somewhat unvently organized, making year-to-year comparisons difficult before 2018, at least when it comes to shelling. Their data on "explosions attributable to fire from MLRS, artillery, mortars and tanks" going backwards in time looks like this:

  • 2021: 1,133 explosions
  • 2020: 3,216 explosions
  • 2019: 3,373 explosions
  • 2018: 8,470 explosions
  • 2017: I could not find separate data.
  • 2016: no SMM-provided total that I could find, but they report (fig. 6 on p. 13) approximately 1,000-5,000 per month, so I'd guess 20,000-30,000 for the whole year. (Tank fire is seemingly not included in this graph, only MLRS, artillery, and mortars.)

Alas the location of the shelling is not numerically broken down by where it landed (Kyiv-controlled vs. LPR/DPR-areas) although these reports do have some maps for a general impression of where the shelling concentrations were... i.e. mostly on the contact line.

On the other hand, the majority of the civilian casualties caused by these occurred in the LPR/DPR-controlled areas, e.g. for 2016:

The majority of casualties – 281 out of 442 – occurred in non-government-controlled areas, with 57 civilians killed and 224 injured while 148 casualties (28 killed and 120 injured) were reported in government-controlled areas. Additionally, 13 cases (three killed and ten injured) occurred in locations not fully controlled by any of the sides.

The combined report for 2017-2020 points to a similar distribution of civilian casualties (dead and wounded), although somewhat more skewed than before.

  • Government-controlled areas: 223 in Donetsk region and 47 in Luhansk region
  • Non-government-controlled areas: 513 in Donetsk region and 144 in Luhansk region
  • Areas not controlled by either side: 14 in Donetsk region and five in Luhansk region

It seems that most civilian casualties 2017-2020 occurred in "hotspots" that were contested by both sides, rather than by shelling in areas further to the rear (although there was some of that too judging by the maps):

Four hotspots that straddle both government- and non-government-controlled areas of the contact line, three in Donetsk and one in Luhansk region, accounted for nearly 75 percent of civilian casualties due to shelling and [small arms and light weapons]-fire.

In all those reports, the vast majority of civilian casualties were due to shelling or delayed explosions caused by unexploded ordnance or mines/IEDs etc., rather than lighter/direct weapons fire, even though the latter category constituted an overwhelming proportion of the overall "ceasefire violations" that the SMM tracked. (E.g. 312,544 violations in 2018; 93,902 violations in 2021.)

As noted in the other answer, during all this time, the contact line ran pretty close to the city of Donetsk, by far the largest city in this conflict area (pop. 900K and in DPR hands), and so [at least] its outskirts were hit by shelling judging by the 2021 maps, and likewise for the outskirts of Luhansk city (pop 300K). The outskirts of Horlivka, which is roughly the same size as Mariupol or Luhansk, were pretty much shelled year after year, as the contact line ran between Horlivka and Toretsk (pop 31K), which however was controlled by Kyiv, and was "only a few kilometers away from the separatists-controlled Horlivka" (as Wikipedia puts it). Krasnohorivka (pop. 16K) was in a similar position to the east of Donetsk city and Avdiivka (pop. 32K) to the north thereof was contested by both sides. In between Horlivka and Luhansk the contact line also ran though somewhat populated areas, like Zolote (pop. 13K), also contested by both sides. So, yeah, the contact line ran close or downright through some fairly populated areas.

Now 4-100 shells/explosions per day (depending which year you want to consider 2016-2021) definitely is not peace, but compared to 60,000 per day in 2022, if the Western estimates of the latter are correct... (there's no more OSCE on the ground to count every explosion etc.)


User gunterze has kindly went through the 2022 OSCE reports (before they withdrew) and added these tallies:

The increase at the end of Feb had been noticed by the international press, as well as by Russia. Ukraine and LPR/DRP trade accused each other of bearing responsibility for this increase.

(Putin announces the "necessary, long-overdue decision" to recognize the independence of LPR/DPR on Feb 21, and instructs his Ministry of Defense to send in Russian troops. The next evening Putin says he recognizes the LPR/DPR territorial claims over the entire Donbas region so they "could restart their fight to establish their territorial integrity", despite the fact what LPR/DOR occupy only about a third of that on Feb 21, and contra to what deputy FM Rudenko said earlier on Feb 22.)

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    Wait how exactly can "bombing for the last 8 years" be false if you don't speak of shelling, and what's the relation between 'shelling' and 'aircraft operations' ?
    – BCLC
    Jul 10 at 19:03
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    @BCLC: "bombing" can be used to describe shelling, but it seldom is so by native English speakers, in my experience. Now Karjakin certainly is not a native speaker, so...
    – Fizz
    Jul 11 at 1:50
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    @BCLC: See e.g. for instance this WW2 classic (American English) which refers to "bombing and shelling". If "bombing" includes shelling, it's redundant to say it like that. (Or this for British English.)
    – Fizz
    Jul 11 at 2:01
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    @BCLC “bombing” and “shelling” has nearly the same meaning in Russian language, so used interchangeably. Anyone talking about Donbass bombing actually means shelling since there were zero or few aircraft operations.
    – igor
    Jul 11 at 6:01
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    @Fizz thank you for a great research. Mr. Putin twisted meaning of “genocide” to influence general public where looking at the casualty numbers it is hard to imagine being 8 years of genocide in Donbass region as claimed by Russian authorities.
    – igor
    Jul 11 at 6:43
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Russia invaded Ukraine back in 2014 leaving it's soldiers unidentified (without any official signs that they were russian) claiming that it is internal movement of Ukraine wanting to make Donbas region independent. Naturally, there were huge battles between Ukrainian army and invaders for Ukrainian territory. As the invasion progressed, Russian government started sending Russian people to the self-proclaimed independent territory, by giving them privilegec etc. to flood it with russians, while Ukrainian people had to leave west. However, as this is indeed Ukrainian territory, Ukrainian army continued fighting for it. Naturally, both sides used not only troops but also the artillery.

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    – Community Bot
    Jul 10 at 22:34
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    Unfortunately this answer puts aside a lot of important details and simplified to TV version.
    – igor
    Jul 11 at 6:04
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    Question is literally about what a Pro-Russian chess grandmaster said, which is a typical statement russians use when justifying the invasion.
    – ess3nt1al
    Jul 11 at 8:10
  • ess3nt1al pro-russian (as in pro-Putin), Russian BUT Ukrainian-born!
    – BCLC
    Jul 11 at 12:11
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    The matter of where a person is born doesn't exactly define their political views, but russia oriented parents do, as well as the fact that he was born on the territory that russia was already planning to conquer (by the way, one publicly available meeting with Putin usually defines one's "worldview"
    – ess3nt1al
    Jul 11 at 13:21

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