Why Donetsk and Luhansk, in Donbas Region, Matter in Ukraine

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia intends to recognize the independence of two separatist regions in Ukraine, a move many fear may be the spark for a Russian military intervention against Ukraine.

The act of recognition is fraught with meaning because the borders claimed by the Russia-backed leaders of the two breakaway regions, Donetsk and Luhansk, extend beyond territory they now control, and spill over into space controlled by the Ukrainian army.

Russia’s recognition of the two regions, the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic, could allow separatist leaders to request military help from Russia, further easing a path for a military offensive, Ukrainian officials say. Ukraine would likely interpret that as Russian troops entering Ukrainian territory.

The conflict in the separatist regions began in 2014, when rebels loyal to Russia seized government buildings in Donetsk and Luhansk, beginning a long trench war with Ukrainian forces. More than 13,000 people have died in fighting in the region since.

Andrés R. Martínezcontributed reporting.

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