The latest addition to our combat footage section shows the grim aftermath of an artillery strike in Donetsk during the current War in Ukraine. The man who was peppered with shrapnel was a war photographer called Serhiy Nikolayev. In the past, he had worked in conflict zones such as Georgia, Libya, Somalia, and Syria where he focused on war and particularly its impact on children. The incident took place in the village of Peski which is located just 1.5 kilometers away from Donetsk airport.

Serhiy was working alongside his colleague Bogdan Rossinsky who was also caught in the blast but was non-lethally wounded. Serhiy suffered significant injuries as a result of shrapnel from the blast and was taken to a nearby hospital in the town of Krasnoarmiysk. But his injuries were fatal and he later passed away. Both sides (pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian troops) were subsequently blamed for the death. The footage is from a wider documentary called ”War for Peace”.

The Story Behind the War in Donbass

In 2014 as the pro-Western Euromaidan revolution swept across Kyiv and wider Ukraine, the government led by Viktor Yanukovych collapsed. In contrast to the Euromaidan protests, pro-Russian protests in the south-eastern regions of Ukraine, particularly Donetsk and Lugansk regions. These soon escalated into full-blown separatist movements

Around the same time, the largely ethnically Russian Crimea began to make it clear they wanted to separate from Ukraine. Russian soldiers with no insignia appeared on the strategic peninsula. Known as ‘the little green men’, these soldiers rapidly captured key positions and surrounded Ukrainian military bases. Crimea subsequently held a referendum that was largely unrecognized and achieved independence from Ukraine. Shortly after, Russian annexed Crimea with minimal violence.

The aftermath of the war in Ukraine

The nearby Donbass region, however, was not lucky enough to avoid widespread violence. What began as protests between the separatist movements and the new Ukrainian government soon deteriorated into full-blown warfare and the formation of two self-declared states: the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic.

By September of 2014, the separatist rebels and the Ukrainian government signed the Minsk Protocol. This agreement, co-signed by Russia and the OSCE, was established in order to create a lasting ceasefire. However, it hardly halted the conflict which continued to rage sporadically.

The aftermath of the war in Ukraine

During the early ceasefire period as agreements were being made about the lines between the separatists and the Ukrainian government forces, various warlords began to capture and control territory which meant further rapid deterioration of the security situation in Eastern Ukraine. By January 2015, the ceasefire was in ruins and full-scale warfare was underway between the two sides.

Some of the most infamous battles took place at the recently built Donetsk Airport and the city of Debaltseve. In the aftermath, a vain effort to stop the carnage a new agreement was drawn up in February 2015 called Minsk II. After it was signed, separatist forces launched a mass assault on the strategic city of Debaltseve and pushed Ukrainian forces out. Since then, the war has ground to a stalemate with people still being killed every month. Various international fighters have become involved on both sides.

For more reportage from the conflict in Donbass and the aftermath of various incidents there, follow us on Twitter.

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Batya (Батя) is the founder of Reaper Feed. He is an international security advisor and a high-risk expedition leader across former and active conflict zones such as Eastern Ukraine, unrecognized post-Soviet states, the North Caucasus, and the Middle East. Batya founded Reaper Feed to provide unprecedented insight into the lesser-seen sides of human conflict and modern warfare. He is from the UK but his work means he is based in various countries around the world.