Following the Russian annexation of the Crimea in March 2014, the eyes of the world turned to Ukraine’s easternmost part. Just a month after Crimea broke away from Ukraine, activists in Donetsk unofficially founded the Donetsk People’s Republic.
Unlike in Crimea, no Russian army bases had previously been based in the region. Instead, civilians were engaged to drive a process of annexation. Armed militia groups from the local area set up roadblocks and put up banners containing anti-Western and anti-European slogans. They stormed administration buildings, police stations and army bases.
The Ukrainian army launched its anti-terror operation in an attempt to crackdown the opposition. The self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic went ahead with a referendum on 11 May to determine independence from Ukraine. The vote was deemed illegal by both Kiev and Western governments and unrest in the region remained.
Pcholkino, April 16, 2014 - Russian-backed separatists and pro-Russian civilians disarm a Ukrainian military convoy. © Pierre Crom
Sloviansk, May 02, 2014 - Pro-Russian separatists build roadblocks with trees as Ukrainian forces surround Sloviansk. © Pierre Crom
Sloviansk, May 02, 2014 - Olga Kulygina from Moscow takes part in a military operation as Ukrainian forces surround Sloviansk. © Pierre Crom
Sloviansk, May 03, 2014 - Commander of Russian-backed forces Igor Girkin, also known as Igor Strelkov, (standing left on the stairs) gives orders to release a hostage. © Pierre Crom
Kramatorsk, May 05, 2014 - Relatives grieve over the body of 21-year-old Yulia Izotova. Yulia died during a shootout while traveling by car from Sloviansk to Kramatorsk. © Pierre Crom
Sloviansk, May 10, 2014 - Russian-backed separatists rest in a base located in a residential area. © Pierre Crom
Sloviansk, May 11, 2014 - A mobile team of pro-Russian separatists try to convince a resident to vote in favor of self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, during the referendum on the independence of the Donbas region. © Pierre Crom