According to the scientist, the Donbas has always been a complex region with no predetermined influence of any certain political parties, where several generations of local people have seen it as their last resort for some degree of freedom.

Noting that the Donbas people had voted in 1991 for Ukraine’s independence, Kuromiya told Ukraine Today that local residents have never since then seen their development beyond the idea of being part of Ukraine, until the very last moment when Russia aggressively interfered, annexing the Crimean peninsula and igniting the conflict in the east.

However, in the expert’s opinion, it has never been exactly clear what the Donbas people really want, so they probably use the current Russian factor to extract maximum profit for the region itself.

Kuromiya claims that the Moscow must be convinced that the Donbas is an integral part of Ukraine. While any solution to the existing conflict in the Donbas, according to the expert, should be sought in the framework of independent Ukraine, he admits that this doesn’t solve the problem of Crimea.

The historian adds that it would be unacceptable if Ukraine’s fate was decided by great world powers to the country’s detriment, although he harbors such fears.

As for the attitude of the Americans toward the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, the Indiana University professor said public sentiment was on the Ukrainian side. Still, some see Russia’s actions as a response to the United States extensively exercising its powers abroad, although Kuromiya argues that such analogies cannot be used to justify Russia’s actions against Ukraine, as the Kremlin has constantly interfered in other countries’ business.

Hiroaki Kuromiya is a Japanese historian and a professor at Indiana University who lives in the United States, and who has been studying the Donbas for over 20 years. Seventeen years ago he wrote a book called “Freedom and Terror in the Donbas: A Ukrainian-Russian Borderland, 1870s-1990s.”

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