(NewsNation Now) — Two eastern Ukrainian regions — Donetsk and Luhansk — have become a flashpoint in escalating tensions with Russia.
On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia now recognized the independence of the two separatist regions in a provocative move that the U.S. and its allies saw as a sign of an imminent invasion.
In a nearly eight-year conflict that has killed over 14,000 people, Ukrainian forces have battled separatist groups in the region.
These two separatist areas are known as the Donbas and have a strong cultural connection to Russia.
Ukraine’s last census found that 70% of the Donbas region’s residents primarily spoke Russian.
Coal mining and other heavy industry work are the area’s primary economic drivers. At the beginning of the conflict in 2014, the area was the fourth-largest coal extractor in all of Europe and produced 20% of Ukraine’s GDP.
The conflict has had a major impact on Ukraine’s economy, with Russia wanting control of the both the mineral wealth and the manufacturing brawn in the Donbas, where Russia gets a large percentage of the metals used in its weapons and space programs.
A peace deal reached in 2015 was supposed to give the rebel regions limited self-rule after numerous flare-ups of conflict that have drained Ukraine’s resources. The deal stalled, however, as many Ukrainians saw it as against the country’s national interests and refused to ratify it.
This has left matters where they are now: Angry partisans sympathetic to the Russian cause in the Donbas, while the rest of Ukraine wants fervently to remain independent.