The five years of the Donbass Independence Referendum

It remains for Russia to specify its position: Crimean or Transnistrian model?


Karine Bechet-Golovko

[Translator note: Karine Bechet-Golovko’s Russie Politics blog has been and remains a great source of Donbass news. Her blog “tries to decipher current Russian politics, to give dimension to all its richness and complexity, without cliches, without picking sides, and without any attempt to please everybody.” (… tenter de décrypter l’actualité politique russe, donner la dimension de toute sa richesse et sa complexité. Sans clichés et sans partis pris. Sans vouloir plaire à tout le monde.)]

Five years ago, May 11, 2014, in the midst of civil war, Donbass, hoping to follow the path of Crimea, organized a referendum and declared its independence. Since then, the inhabitants have defended their land, arms in hand, and paid a heavy price for their refusal to submit to an extremist, repressive operetta regime that hides its real raison d’être, namely the defense of Atlantist interests, destroying the Ukrainian state, turning it into a tool to counter Russia.”

On April 22, 2014, in session, the Council of the DPR decides on the organization of a referendum to be held on May 11, that is to say before the post-maidan Ukraine presidential elections, on the following question: ” Do you support the DPR independence decision? ” An identical decision was made by LNR.Yet Russia, which had just lately digested Crimea on the international scene, was trying to convince Donbass leaders to postpone the referendum, both because of the violence of the Ukrainian army’s fighting against the eastern population of Ukraine, and politically, to wait for the Ukrainian presidential elections.The chairman of the DPR Electoral Commission, Roman Liaguine, reacted rather directly: if the leaders decide to postpone, we will obey, but in no case will we organize the Ukrainian presidential elections here. And the leaders of LPR and DPR decided to override, and organize this referendum on May 11, 2014, as originally planned.

Participation was comparable to that of the Crimean referendum. An endless crowd presses to vote everywhere in the East, it is driven by the hope of a better future, it follows the Crimea and hopes to return to Russia. When the question is asked by a journalist to a voter “Why do you come to vote?”, The answer came, without a second of hesitation, “because I am Russian”. The average participation rate was about 74% (over 71% in DPR and over 80% at LPR).

The results, announced on May 12, were final: 89.7% in DPR and 96.2% in LPR voted for the independence of their young Republic.The results are clear: the inhabitants of LPR and DPR, after the coup of Maidan, which destroyed the Ukrainian state, did not renew the social pact, and decided not to be part of the new social construction that got set up after the Maidan in Ukraine. Russia declared respect for the choice of the inhabitants, but for all that did not answer to their call of integration in the Russian Federation.

Humanitarian convoys, technical assistance, and recently the decision was taken to establish a simplified procedure for obtaining Russian citizenship for the inhabitants of these regions, so Russia does not let go of the region.
Russia is reluctant to make a political choice. It is true that Crimea was an event whose turmoil on the international scene is still felt. Not because the Crimea left the lap of Ukraine, but because it left to return to Russia. However, it is absolutely unacceptable in this Atlantist unicentred world for individuals to prefer Russia to the American dream, certainly disputed, but still alive.

By issuing Russian passports, Russia has given hope to the people of Donbass, who are still waiting to be reunited. The crisis of hysteria that this caused in the international community, which had never reacted to these practices of mass issuance of passports by Poland or Romania to Ukrainians, shows that the event is not trivial.
For Russian speakers, two videos about events in Ukraine. The images themselves are telling of the extent of Ukrainian aggression in Donbass.

The first documentary film was released on the occasion of the first anniversary of the referendum:

The second film was made by the administration of DNR and concerns the events that led to the referendum, as well as the tragedies experienced since in the region:

Throughout the Donbass, this date has become the day of the Republic, the day of independence and is worthily celebrated with concerts and fireworks.

See photos of Donetsk on Svetlana Kissileva’s page here.
In Gorlovka, infamous for being regularly and heavily bombed, for example:

As the Russian representative to the Minsk process, Gryzlov, said, the Donbass will not capitulate, now or in the future, because that is not why the inhabitants fought for 5 years. It remains for Russia to specify its position, which for the moment is rather vague. It seems rather to react situatively, and not strategically, according to the evolution of the events.

Will it get resolved via the Crimean scenario or will it remain on the model of Transnistria?

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