Russian aggression against Ukraine started after Ukraine’s Revolution of Dignity (February 2014). Pro-Russian president of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych was forced to leave the country, temporary government was established and new presidential elections were subsequently held. After the 2014 revolution, Russia refused to recognize the new interim government, calling the revolution a “coup d’état”, invaded the Crimean Peninsula in Ukraine, and declared that part of Ukrainian territory to be Russian.
At the same time, Putin’s regime financially and technically supported a small number of terrorists in the Eastern Ukraine. During short period of time they received weapons (from Russian and robbing local police offices), forced Ukrainian authorities out from a number of towns and declared a small part of Donbass (the two Eastern regions of Ukraine, Dinetsk and Luhansk regions combined) an independent state. At the beginning of the insurgency, the prime ministers of Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk were Russian citizens; they were succeeded by Ukrainian citizens by August. Russian paramilitaries are reported to make up from 15% to 80% of the combatants. The Kremlin has tried to systematically intimidate and silence human rights workers who have raised questions about Russian soldiers’ deaths in the conflict.
Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down by surface-to-air missiles provided to the terrorists by Russia. With 298 deaths, MH17 is the deadliest air incident in Ukraine and the deadliest airliner shootdown in history.
A new front in the war was opened in August 2014. Vast amounts of military equipment and troops crossed the border from Russia into southern Donetsk Oblast, an area previously controlled by the Ukrainian government. On 5 September, representatives of all sides of the conflict signed the Minsk Protocol, an agreement that implemented a ceasefire. Ukrainian armed forces had withdrawn from conflict; Russia moved more armed forces to the occupied Ukrainian territory. At least 331 people had been killed since the start of ceasefire.
The United Nations observed an “alarming deterioration” in human rights in territory held by insurgents affiliated with the Donetsk People’s Republic and Lugansk People’s Republic. The UN reported growing lawlessness in the region, documenting cases of targeted killings, torture, and abduction, primarily carried out by the forces of the Donetsk People’s Republic. The UN also reported threats against, attacks on, and abductions of journalists and international observers, as well as the beatings and attacks on supporters of Ukrainian unity. By the start of September 2014 the number of people displaced from Donbass rose to more than one million. “As of October 29, at least 4,035 people have been killed in eastern Ukraine and 9,336 have been injured,” the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) report stated.