Year: 2014 to date
The eastern area in Ukraine, bordering Russia, includes Crimea, Donetsk, and Luhansk. The residents are mostly Russian descendants or pro-Russians who prefer to be friendly with Russia and distance themselves from the European Union. In 2014, Crimea initiated a referendum, declared independence from Ukraine and joined the Russian Federation. Donetsk and Luhansk, in turn, engaged in armed conflict with Ukraine, which is known as the Donbas War. Russia continues to support the pro-Russia force in Eastern Ukraine with weapons, even issuing them passports as an incentive to encourage the people to surrender to Russia. In April 2021, out of the blue, Russia gathered 10,000 soldiers in a military exercise in Eastern Ukraine. Things were very intense in Ukraine and both parties came close to waging a war against one another. The incident eventually ended with Russia pulling back its troops, but this sudden conflict prompted NATO to rethink the necessity of having Ukraine onboard. Even though there was no physical war, the pro-Russia and pro-Europe struggle in Eastern Ukraine remains a strong destabilizing factor in Ukraine.