Why does Russia want the Donbas region of Ukraine and how does it compare to the annexation of Crimea in 2014

As conflict rages in Ukraine, there is a region within the country that has been trying to secede.

The Donbas region on the eastern edge of Ukraine has had a separatist movement since 2014--around the same time as the Russian annexation of Crimea. This region has been contested for almost a decade.

Experts expected Russia to take the territories in the Donbas region much like the Crimean annexation because of their friendliness toward Russia, but they instead invaded all of Ukraine. In 2014, Crimea was annexed by Russia, and many leaders do not recognize the legitimacy of this annexation because it issued an “after-the-fact” referendum claiming that Crimean residents wanted to be a part of Russia without any evidence.

Unlike the Donbas region, there were no separatist movements in Crimea.

I spoke with a professor of political science at the University of Notre Dame who said that Russia believes to be “liberating the people of Donbas.”

About 80 percent of the population in this region is ethnically Russian and identify as Russian but are Ukrainian citizens.

Russia has labeled this movement as a grassroots movement, but Dr. Suzanne Wengle an associate professor of political science at the University of Notre Dame says that is not the case.

“The fighting has been supported with Russian money, Russian weapons, and Russian volunteers. So, the separatist movements are very much encouraged by Russia.”

If Ukraine were to lose the Donbas region, it’d be a devastating blow to the nation.

The area supplies many industrial goods and is their “rust belt.”

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has many agricultural impacts which will have global impacts. Ukraine and Russia create one-third of the global wheat supply and 80 percent of the world’s sunflower oil. Ukraine is also the second largest producer of corn.

Key ports have been shut down as a result of the ongoing battle in Ukraine. This has directly impacted wheat exports. These exports will likely increase prices of bread and grains in the US.

The impacts will hurt the global food supply as well. Russia and Ukraine export wheat to over one hundred countries across Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

Wengle says that these countries fear that the ramifications will be similar to what was felt during Russia’s 2010 drought.

“Russia had a drought which led to increasing wheat prices which led to discontent in Egypt because the government couldn’t afford to subsidize bread and wheat. So, a lot of these countries are very nervous about ramifications,” said Wengle

The lower production of wheat and sunflower oil will likely add to the increase prices already seen with inflation.

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