The self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) in eastern Ukraine plans to conduct a census, suggesting signs of a referendum, as reported by the Ukrainian news agency, UNIAN.
According to the report, questionnaires will include questions like how has the conflict in Donbas has affected your life and who is to blame for the conflict. The question, how do you see the future of the DPR, however, raised doubts over the possibility of a referendum in the region, with the options for answers reading as follows: "As part of the Russian Federation," "As part of Ukraine" and "As an independent state."
Backed by Moscow, separatist rebels seized territory in eastern Ukraine after pro-Western protests toppled former President Viktor Yanukovich in February 2014, and Russia annexed Crimea a month later. The same year, in May, pro-Moscow rebel leaders staged a referendum on self-rule in Donetsk and neighboring Luhansk, with some saying that meant independence and eventual union with Russia as fighting flared in a conflict increasingly out of control.
Last year, two rebel-controlled regions in eastern Ukraine held leadership elections in the shadow of a conflict that has poisoned relations between Ukraine and Russia. Ukraine and its international backers have lined up to condemn the vote as a sham manipulated by the Russian authorities and in violation of a 2015 Minsk cease-fire agreement.
According to the U.N., more than 3,300 civilians have been killed and up to 9,000 injured since the conflict began in 2014, with many of the 3.5 million civilians needing humanitarian assistance and protection services in 2019.
As the conflict in eastern Ukraine will soon enter its sixth year, civilians in conflict-hit areas continue to suffer from a humanitarian crisis that reveals the ineffectiveness of a series of international agreements to restore peace.
The February 2015 Minsk Agreements, agreed to by the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany, set out the necessary steps to stop violence against civilians in eastern Ukraine. However, the U.N. earlier this week warned that the agreements have remained "largely unimplemented."