Luhansk People's Republic
The Luhansk People's Republic, alternatively spelled as Lugansk People's Republic (Ukrainian: Луганська Народна Республіка, romanized: Luhanska Narodna Respublika, Russian: Луга́нская Наро́дная Респу́блика, tr. Luganskaya Narodnaya Respublika, IPA: [lʊˈɡanskəjə nɐˈrodnəjə rʲɪˈspublʲɪkə]), usually abbreviated as LPR or LNR, is a landlocked proto-state in the Luhansk Oblast in the Donbass region, in eastern Ukraine. Along with the Donetsk People's Republic (DPR), the LPR declared independence from Ukraine in the aftermath of the 2014 Ukrainian revolution. An armed conflict with Ukraine followed its declaration of independence, during which the LPR and DPR received military and humanitarian assistance from Russia. This conflict is still ongoing as of August 2019. LPR remains unrecognised by any UN member state, including Russia – although Russia recognises documents issued by the LPR government, such as identity documents, diplomas, birth and marriage certificates and vehicle registration plates.
Luhansk People's Republic
Location of Luhansk People's Republic in Europe (dark green)
|Status||Unrecognised state. Recognised by United Nations General Assembly Resolution 68/262 as part of Ukraine|
and largest city
|Official languages||Russian, Ukrainian|
• Prime Minister
• Chairman of the People's Soviet
|Denis Miroshnichenko (acting)|
|Independence from Ukraine|
|27 April 2014|
• Declaration of Independence
|12 May 2014|
• Signing of Minsk II agreement
|11 February 2015|
|Currency||Russian ruble (most common); Ukrainian hryvnia (less common); euro, U.S. dollar (legal but rarely used)|
Ukraine's legislation describes the LPR's area as a "temporarily occupied territory" and its government as an "occupying administration of the Russian Federation". The Ukrainian military action against the republic is officially called an anti-terrorist operation, although it is not considered as such by the Supreme Court of Ukraine itself or by either the EU, US, or Russia. In 2019 leader of LPR Leonid Pasechnik expressed an intention to eventually rejoin Ukraine "as a sovereign state will be a state within the state".
Geography and demographics
The LPR is landlocked and borders Ukraine (i.e., the rest of Ukraine) to the north, the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic to the west, and Russia to the east. The LPR extends to approximately half of Luhansk Oblast, including its densely populated areas, the regional capital Luhansk, as well as the major cities Alchevsk and Krasnodon. Approximately 64.4% of the population of the Oblast lives in the LPR. The northern part of Luhansk Oblast, which is predominantly Ukrainian-speaking, has remained under Ukrainian control. The territory controlled by the LPR is mostly, but not completely, coincident with the right (southern) bank of the Donets.
The highest point of the LPR (and of the whole Donbass) is Grave Mechetna hill (367.1 m (1,204 ft) above sea level), which is located in the vicinity of the city of Petrovske.
The population of the republic is estimated by the LPR's bureau of statistics at approximately 1.5 million people, although the exactness of this estimate is questionable due to war-time migration and a lack of independent sources. Approximately 435,000 of the republic's population live in Luhansk, where the republic has its administration.
Lugansk and Donetsk People's republics are located in the historical region of Donbass, which was added to Ukraine in 1922. The majority of the population speak Russian as their first language. Attempts by various Ukrainian governments to question the legitimacy of the Russian culture in Ukraine had since the Declaration of Independence of Ukraine often resulted in political conflict. In the Ukrainian national elections, a remarkably stable pattern had developed, where Donbass and the Western Ukrainian regions had voted for the opposite candidates since the presidential election in 1994. Viktor Yanukovych, a Donetsk native, had been elected as a president of Ukraine in 2010. His overthrow in the 2014 Ukrainian revolution led to protests in Eastern Ukraine, which gradually escalated into an armed conflict between the newly formed Ukrainian government and the local armed militias.
Occupation of government buildings
On 5 March 2014, 12 days after the protesters in Kiev seized the president's office (at the time Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych had already fled Ukraine), a crowd of people in front of the Luhansk Oblast State Administration building proclaimed Aleksandr Kharitonov as "People's Governor" in Luhansk region. On 9 March 2014 Luganskaya Gvadiya of Kharitonov stormed the government building in Luhansk and forced the newly appointed Governor of Luhansk Oblast, Mykhailo Bolotskykh, to sign a letter of resignation.
One-thousand pro-Russian activists seized and occupied the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) building in the city of Luhansk on 6 April 2014, following similar occupations in Donetsk and Kharkiv. The activists demanded that separatist leaders who had been arrested in previous weeks be released. In anticipation of attempts by the government to retake the building, barricades were erected to reinforce the positions of the activists. It was proposed by the activists that a "Lugansk Parliamentary Republic" be declared on 8 April 2014, but this did not occur. By 12 April, the government had regained control over the SBU building with the assistance of local police forces.
Several thousand protesters gathered for a 'people's assembly' outside the regional state administration (RSA) building in Luhansk city on 21 April. These protesters called for the creation of a 'people's government', and demanded either federalisation of Ukraine or incorporation of Luhansk into the Russian Federation. They elected Valery Bolotov as 'People's Governor' of Luhansk Oblast. Two referendums were announced by the leadership of the activists. One was scheduled for 11 May, and was meant to determine whether the region would seek greater autonomy (and potentially independence), or retain its previous constitutional status within Ukraine. Another referendum, meant to be held on 18 May in the event that the first referendum favoured autonomy, was to determine whether the region would join the Russian Federation, or become independent.
During a gathering outside the RSA building on 27 April 2014, pro-Russian activists proclaimed the "Luhansk People's Republic". The protesters issued demands, which said that the Ukrainian government should provide amnesty for all protesters, include the Russian language as an official language of Ukraine, and also hold a referendum on the status of Luhansk Oblast. They then warned the Ukrainian government that if it did not meet these demands by 14:00 on 29 April, they would launch an armed insurgency in tandem with that of the Donetsk People's Republic (DPR). As the Ukrainian government did not respond to these demands, 2,000 to 3,000 activists, some of them armed, seized the RSA building, and a local prosecutor's office, on 29 April. The buildings were both ransacked, and then occupied by the protesters. Protestors waived local flags, alongside those of Russia and the neighbouring Donetsk People's Republic. The police officers that had been guarding the building offered little resistance to the takeover, and some of them defected and supported the activists.
Demonstrations by pro-Russian activists began to spread across Luhansk Oblast towards the end of April. The municipal administration building in Pervomaisk was overrun on 29 April 2014, and the Luhansk People's Republic (LPR) flag was raised over it. Oleksandr Turchynov, then acting president of Ukraine, admitted the next day that government forces were unable to stabilise the situation in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. On the same day, activists seized control of the Alchevsk municipal administration building. In Krasnyi Luch, the municipal council conceded to demands by activists to support the 11 May 2014 referendum, and followed by raising the Russian flag over the building.
Insurgents occupied the municipal council building in Stakhanov on 1 May 2014. Later in the week, they stormed the local police station, business centre, and SBU building. Activists in Rovenky occupied a police building there on 5 May, but quickly left. On the same day, the police headquarters in Slovianoserbsk was seized by members of the Army of the South-East, a pro-Russian Luhansk regional militia group. In addition, the town of Antratsyt was occupied by the Don Cossacks. Some said that the occupiers came from Russia; the Cossacks themselves said that only a few people among them had come from Russia. On 7 May, insurgents also seized the prosecutor's office in Sievierodonetsk. Luhansk People's Republic supporters stormed government buildings in Starobilsk on 8 May, replacing the Ukrainian flag with that of the Republic. Sources within the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs said that as of 10 May 2014, the day before the proposed status referendum, Ukrainian forces still retained control over 50% of Luhansk Oblast.
The planned referendum on the status of Luhansk oblast was held on 11 May 2014. The organisers of the referendum said that 96.2% of those who voted were in favour of self-rule, with 3.8% against. They said that voter turnout was at 81%. There were no international observers present to validate the referendum.
Declaration of independence
Following the referendum, the head of the Republic, Valery Bolotov, said that the Republic had become an "independent state". The still-extant Luhansk Oblast Council did not support independence, but called for immediate federalisation of Ukraine, asserting that "an absolute majority of people voted for the right to make their own decisions about how to live". The council also requested an immediate end to Ukrainian military activity in the region, amnesty for anti-government protestors, and official status for the Russian language in Ukraine. Valery Bolotov was wounded in an assassination attempt on 13 May. Luhansk People's Republic authorities blamed the incident on the Ukrainian government. Government forces later captured Alexei Rilke, the commander of the Army of the South-East. The next day, Ukrainian border guards arrested Valery Bolotov. Just over two hours later, after unsuccessfully attempting negotiations, 150 to 200 armed separatists attacked the Dovzhansky checkpoint where he had been held. The ensuing firefight led Ukrainian government forces to free Bolotov.
On 24 May 2014 the Donetsk People's Republic and the Luhansk People's Republic jointly announced their intention to form a confederative "union of People's Republics" called New Russia. Republic President Valery Bolotov said on 28 May that the Luhansk People's Republic would begin to introduce its own legislation based on Russian law; he said Ukrainian law was unsuitable due to it being "written for oligarchs". Vasily Nikitin, prime minister of the Republic, announced that elections to the State Council would take place in September.
The leadership of the Luhansk People's Republic said on 12 June 2014 that it would attempt to establish a "union state" with Russia. The government added that it would seek to boost trade with Russia through legislative, agricultural and economic changes.
Stakhanov, a city that had been occupied by LPR-affiliated Don Cossacks, seceded from the Luhansk People's Republic on 14 September 2014. Don Cossacks there proclaimed the Republic of Stakhanov, and said that a "Cossack government" now ruled in Stakhanov. However the following day this was claimed to be a fabrication, and an unnamed Don Cossack leader stated the 14 September meeting had, in fact, resulted in 12,000 Cossacks volunteering to join the LPR forces. Elections to the LPR Supreme Soviet took place on 2 November 2014, as the LPR did not allow the Ukrainian parliamentary election to be held in territory under its control.
Luhansk People's Republic since 2015
On 1 January 2015, forces loyal to the Luhansk People's Republic ambushed and killed Alexander Bednov, head of a pro-Russian battalion called "Batman". Bednov was accused of murder, abduction and other abuses. An arrest warrant for Bednov and several other battalion members had been previously issued by the separatists' prosecutor's office.
On 12 February 2015, DPR and LPR leaders Alexander Zakharchenko and Igor Plotnitsky signed the Minsk II agreement. In the Minsk agreement it is agreed to introducing amendments to the Ukrainian constitution "the key element of which is decentralisation" and the holding of elections "on temporary order of local self-governance in particular districts of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, based in the line set up by the Minsk Memorandum as of 19 September 2014"; in return rebel held territory would be reintegrated into Ukraine. Representatives of the DPR and LPR continue to forward their proposals concerning Minsk II to the Trilateral Contact Group on Ukraine. Plotnitsky told journalists on 18 February 2015: "Will we be part of Ukraine? This depends on what kind of Ukraine it will be. If it remains like it is now, we will never be together."
On 19 April 2016, planned (organised by the LPR) local elections were postponed from 24 April to 24 July 2016. On 22 July 2016, this elections was again postponed to 6 November 2016. (On 2 October 2016, the DPR and LPR held "primaries" in were voters voted to nominate candidates for participation in the 6 November 2016 elections. Ukraine denounced these "primaries" as illegal.) On 4 November 2016, both DPR and LPR postponed their 6 November 2016 local elections "until further notice".
The "LPR Prosecutor General's Office" announced late September 2016, that it had thwarted a coup attempt ringleaded by former LPR appointed prime minister Gennadiy Tsypkalov (who they stated had committed suicide on 23 September while in detention). Meanwhile, it had also imprisoned former LPR parliamentary speaker Aleksey Karyakin and former LPR interior minister, Igor Kornet. DPR leader Zakharchenko said he had helped to thwart the coup (stating "I had to send a battalion to solve their problems").
On 4 February 2017, LNR defence minister Oleg Anashchenko was killed in a car bomb attack in Luhansk. Separatists claimed "Ukrainian secret services" were suspected of being behind the attack; while Ukrainian officials suggested Anashchenko's death may be the result of an internal power struggle among rebel leaders.
Mid-March 2017 Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko signed a decree on a temporary ban on the movement of goods to and from territory controlled by the self-proclaimed Luhansk People's Republic and Donetsk People's Republic; this also means that since then Ukraine does not buy coal from the Donets Black Coal Basin.
On 21 November 2017, armed men in unmarked uniforms took up positions in the center of Luhansk in what appeared to be a power struggle between the head of the republic Plotnitsky and the (sacked by Plotnitsky) LPR appointed interior minister Igor Kornet. Media reports stated that the DPR had sent armed troops to Luhansk the following night. Three days later the website of the separatists stated that Plotnitsky had resigned "for health reasons. Multiple war wounds, the effects of blast injuries, took their toll." The website stated that security minister Leonid Pasechnik had been named acting leader "until the next elections." Plotnitsky was stated to become the separatist's representative to the Minsk process. Plotnitsky himself did not issue a public statement on 24 November 2017. Russian media reported that Plotnitsky had fled the unrecognised republic on 23 November 2017, first travelling from Luhansk to Rostov-on-Don by car and then flying to Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport. On 25 November the 38-member separatist republic's People's Council unanimously approved Plotnitsky's resignation. Pasechnik declared his adherence to the Minsk accords, claiming "The republic will be consistently executing the obligations taken under these agreements." In the summer of 2019 Pasechnik stated "we will return back into Ukraine. This is the only way to stop this madness, this war. You should understand that we, as a sovereign state will be a state within the state – that will be our special status.”
Sports and culture
The football team of the Luhansk People's republic is ranked sixteenth in the Confederation of Independent Football Associations world ranking. A football match between LPR and DPR was played on 8 August 2015 at the Metalurh Stadium in Donetsk.
Since late 2014, the Luhansk People's Republic controls the following administrative divisions of Luhansk Oblast:
- Luhansk Municipality
- Antratsyt Municipality
- Brianka Municipality
- Kirovsk Municipality
- Krasnodon Municipality
- Krasnyi Luch Municipality
- Rovenky Municipality
- Stakhanov Municipality
- Sverdlovsk Municipality
- Antratsyt Raion
- Krasnodon Raion
- Lutuhyne Raion
- Perevalsk Raion
- Slovianoserbsk Raion
- Sverdlovsk Raion
The People's Council of the LPR ratified a temporary constitution on 18 May 2014. Its government styles itself as a People's republic. The form of The Luhansk People's Republic's parliament is called the People's Council and has 50 deputies. Aleksey Karyakin was elected as its first head on 18 May 2014.
The first parliamentary elections to the legislature of the Luhansk People's Republic were held on 2 November 2014. People of at least 30 years old who "permanently resided in Luhansk People's Republic the last 10 years" were electable for four years and could be nominated by public organizations. All residents of Luhansk Oblast were eligible to vote, even if they are residents of areas controlled by Ukrainian government forces or fled to Russia or other places in Ukraine as refugees.
Ukraine urged Russia to use its influence to stop the election "to avoid a frozen conflict". Russia on the other hand indicated it "will of course recognise the results of the election"; Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated that the election "will be important to legitimise the authorities there". Ukraine held the 2014 Ukrainian parliamentary election on 26 October 2014; these were boycotted by the Donetsk People's Republic and hence voting for it did not take place in Ukraine's eastern districts controlled by forces loyal to the Luhansk People's Republic.
On 6 July 2015 the Luhansk People's Republic leader (LPR) Igor Plotnitsky set elections for "mayors and regional heads" for 1 November 2015 in territory under his control. (Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) leader Alexander Zakharchenko issued a decree on 2 July 2015 that ordered local DPR elections to be held on 18 October 2015. He said that this action was "in accordance with the Minsk agreements".) On 6 October 2015 the DNR and LPR leadership postponed their planned elections to 21 February 2016. This happened 4 days after a Normandy four meeting in which it was agreed that the October 2015 Ukrainian local elections in LPR and DPR controlled territories would be held in accordance to the February 2015 Minsk II agreement. At the meeting President of France François Hollande stated that in order to hold these elections (in LPR and DPR controlled territories) it was necessary "since we need three months to organize elections" to held these elections in 2016. Also during the meeting it is believed that Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to use his influence to not allow the DPR and Luhansk People's Republic election to take place on 18 October 2015 and 1 November 2015. On 4 November 2016 both DPR and LPR postponed their local elections, they had set for 6 November 2016, "until further notice".
Additional elections took place simultaneously in Donetsk and Luhansk republics on 11 November 2018. The official position of the U.S. and European union is that this vote is illegitimate because it was not controlled by the Ukrainian government, and that it was contrary to the 2015 Minsk agreement. Leonid Pasechnik, the head of the Luhansk People's Republic, disagreed and said that the vote was in accordance with the Minsk Agreement. The separatist leaders said that the election was a key step toward establishing full-fledged democracy in the regions. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said that residents of eastern Ukraine should not to participate in the vote. Nevertheless, both regions reported voter turnout of more than 70 percent as of two hours before the polls closed at 8 p.m. local time.
As of May 2015, pensions started being paid in mostly Russian rubles by the Luhansk People's Republic. 85% were in rubles, 12% in hryvnias, and 3% in dollars according to LPR Head Igor Plotnitsky. Ukraine completely stopped paying pensions for the elderly and disabled in areas under DPR and LPR control on 1 December 2014.
Its anthem is "Glory to Luhansk People's Republic! (Russian: Луганской Народной Республике, Слава!, also known as Live and Shine, LNR)".
The United Nations observed (in May 2014) an "alarming deterioration" of human rights in insurgent-held territory in eastern Ukraine. The UN detailed growing lawlessness, documenting cases of targeted killings, torture, and abduction, carried out by Luhansk People's Republic insurgents. The UN also highlighted threats, attacks, and abductions of journalists and international observers, as well as the beatings and attacks on supporters of Ukrainian unity.
There were reports that the Parliament of the Luhansk People's Republic supposedly adopted a law that would introduce criminal liability for homosexuality in September 2014. According to these reports, homosexuality was to be punishable by five years in prison or corrective labour for a term of two to four years. No such law exists in the public record of the legislative assembly of the republic as of May 2018. A law limiting the public expression of homosexuality was, however, adopted in March 2018.
In November 2014, Amnesty International called the "People's Court" (public trials where allegedly random locals are the jury) held in the Luhansk People's Republic "an outrageous violation of the international humanitarian law".
An 18 November 2014 United Nations report on eastern Ukraine declared that the Luhansk People's Republic was in a state of "total breakdown of law and order". The report noted "cases of serious human rights abuses by the armed groups continued to be reported, including torture, arbitrary and incommunicado detention, summary executions, forced labour, sexual violence, as well as the destruction and illegal seizure of property may amount to crimes against humanity". The report also stated that the insurgents violated the rights of Ukrainian-speaking children because schools in rebel-controlled areas only teach in Russian. The United Nations also accused the Ukrainian Army and Ukrainian (volunteer) territorial defense battalions of human rights abuses such as illegal detention, torture and ill-treatment, noting official denials. In a 15 December 2014 press conference in Kiev UN Assistant Secretary-General for human rights Ivan Šimonović stated that the majority of human rights violations, including executions without trial, arrests and torture, were committed in areas controlled by pro-Russian rebels.
In January 2015, the Luhansk Communist Party criticised the current situation in the region. In their statement they expressed "deep disappointment" with how the situation developed from "authentic people's protests a year ago" to "return of corruption and banditism".
On 24 December 2015 the Special Monitoring Mission of the OSCE in Ukraine reported that in territory controlled by the Luhansk People's Republic "Parallel 'justice systems' have begun operating". They found this new judiciary to be "non-transparent, subject to constant change, seriously under-resourced and, in many instances, completely non-functional". An early March 2016 United Nations OHCHR report stated that people that lived in separatist controlled areas were experiencing "complete absence of rule of law, reports of arbitrary detention, torture and incommunicado detention, and no access to real redress mechanisms".
The Luhansk People's Republic is not recognized by any UN member state. It has been recognized by two other states with limited international recognition: South Ossetia and by Donetsk People's Republic.
The Russian Federation does not recognize LPR as a state, but it recognizes official documents issued by the LPR government, such as identity documents, diplomas, birth and marriage certificates and vehicle registration plates. This recognition was introduced in February 2017 and enabled people living in LPR controlled territories to travel, work or study in Russia. According to the presidential decree that introduced it, the reason for the decree was "to protect human rights and freedoms" in accordance with "the widely recognized principles of international humanitarian law." Ukrainian authorities decried the decree and claimed that it was contradictory to the Minsk II agreement, and also that it "legally recognised the quasi-state terrorist groups which cover Russia's occupation of part of Donbas."
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