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United Armed Forces of Novorossiya
Объединённые Вооруженные Силы Новороссии
""War Flag of Novorussia.svg
Founded 3 March 2014[1]
(as Donbass People's Militia)
Current form 16 September 2014[2]
Minister of Defence "Vladimir Kononov
(Donetsk People's Republic)
Oleg Bugrov
(Luhansk People's Republic)
Active personnel 10,000 – 20,000 (July 2014)[3][4]
30,000 – 35,000 (March 2015)[5]
40,000 – 45,000 (June 2015)[6]

Separatist forces of the "War in Donbass, or the United Armed Forces of Novorossiya ("Russian: Объединённые Вооруженные Силы Новороссии; acronym NAF)[2][7] is the umbrella name for the "militias and armed "volunteer groups affiliated with the unrecognized political union called "Novorossiya (New Russia). It consists of the Donbass People's Militia,[8][9] the Luhansk People's Militia and autonomous armed groups. They are regarded as "terrorist groups by the "Government of Ukraine.[10]

The Donbass People's Militia was formed by "Pavel Gubarev, who was elected "People's Governor" of Donetsk Oblast by "pro-Russian protesters.[11] It was originally involved in taking control of Ukrainian government buildings in the "Donetsk oblast. Tensions increased to the point of the militia being actively involved in fighting a war against the "Ukrainian government in the "Donbass region of Ukraine. The militia was accused by the Ukrainian government of culpability in the shooting down of "Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 on 17 July 2014, but the Donetsk People's Republic disputed this claim.[12] The militias of the "Donetsk People's Republic and "Luhansk People's Republic, merged into one group on 16 September 2014, forming the "United Armed Forces of "Novorossiya".[2]

It is widely believed that the separatists are supported by Russian armed forces.[13] Although the Russian government often denies direct involvement stating that their soldiers were there voluntarily and not under orders, some of them were detained riding their combat vehicles with documents proving their origin in Russian armed forces.[14] A college director at the Donetsk Academy of Motor Transport living under the Donetsk People's Republic has been sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for taking pictures of Russian vehicles in Eastern Ukraine, under the accounts of "spying".[15] Moreover, separatists admitted receiving supplies from Russia and being trained there. BBC reported that separatist ranks are composed of thousands of Russian citizens, and NATO accused Russia of deploying their regular troops into Ukraine.[14][16] "Registered Cossacks of the Russian Federation have been reported to be supporting separatists in the conflict as well. Head of the "DPR, "Alexander Zakharchenko, claimed in August 2014 that there are around 3,000 to 4,000 Russian volunteers fighting for the militia, which includes current and many retired Russian Army servicemen.[17]



Pro-Russian rally in Donetsk on April 6, 2014

On 3 March 2014, during the "2014 pro-Russian unrest in Ukraine, groups of protesters took control of the regional administration building in "Donetsk.[18] A newly created armed opposition group named the Donbass People's Militia participated in it and was led by "Pavel Gubarev.[18] This happened when 11 Ukrainian cities with significant populations of ethnic Russians erupted in demonstrations against the new Ukrainian government.[18] On 6 April 2014, 2,000 "pro-Russian protesters rallied outside the regional administration building.[19] In the same day, groups of protesters in "Eastern Ukraine stormed the regional administration building in "Kharkiv, and the "SBU headquarters in "Luhansk.[11] The groups created a people's council and demanded a "referendum like in Crimea.[19][nb 1] Within a few days, several government buildings in cities such as "Kramatorsk and "Sloviansk were also stormed.[29][30] On 12 April, the supporters of the Donetsk People's Republic and members of Donbass People's Militia set up checkpoints and barricades in "Sloviansk.[31] The same day, former members of the Donetsk ""Berkut" unit joined the ranks of the Donbass People's Militia.[32]

On 13 April, the newly established Ukrainian government gave the separatists a deadline to disarm or face a "full-scale anti-terrorist campaign" in the region.[33] Later that day, the first reports of fighting was reported between the people's militia and Ukrainian troops near Sloviansk, with casualties on both sides.[34][35] On 14 April, members of the Donbass People's Militia blocked Ukrainian military "KrAZ truck's armed with "Grad missiles from entering the city.[36][37] On 15 April, a full scale ""Anti-Terrorist Operation" was launched by the Ukrainian government with aim of restoring their authority over the areas seized by the militia.[38]

Sloviansk city council under control of Russian "Registered Cossacks[39] on 14 April 2014
DPR troops in "Donetsk during a rehearsal for the 2015 "Victory Day parade

On 16 April, the militia entered Sloviansk with six "BMD airborne amphibious tracked "infantry fighting vehicles[40][41] they obtained from parts of the "25th Airborne Brigade[42] who had switched allegiance.[43][44][45][46] The "occupants" were disarmed after the vehicles were blockaded by locals.[47] The militia also received one self-propelled 120 mm mortar "2S9 "Nona-S"[48][49] On April 20, an unidentified armed group in civilian clothes attacked a Militia checkpoint at the entrance to the city of Sloviansk. Three attackers and three members of Militia were killed.[50] On May 14, eight members of Militia seized an IMR armored vehicle from "Novokramatorsky Mashinostroitelny Zavod.[51]

On May 15, the Donbass People's Militia sent an ultimatum to Kiev. They ordered the withdraw all Ukrainian troops from "Donetsk oblast.[52] On May 17, several members of the militia seized two "BRDM unarmed armored vehicles from "Severodonetsk and "Lysychansk ("Luhansk Oblast)[53] On May 22, the "Federal State of Novorossiya was declared. On May 23, several members of people's militia seized another "BRDM-RKh unarmed armored vehicle from Loskutovka ("Luhansk Oblast)[54]

The militia were widely suspected to be involved in the downing of a civilian airliner, "Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, on 17 July 2014.[55][56]

On August 8, the militia claimed that after battles near border with Russia, they captured 67 pieces of equipment with varying status (serviceable equipment without ammunition and fuel, with faults, damaged in battle and completely unusable), including 18 multiple rocket launching systems "Grad", 15 tanks and armored personnel carriers, howitzers, MANPADS, etc.[57] As of August 12, the militia has at least 200 armored vehicles.[58]

The months of July and early August were disastrous for the militias with many analysts saying they were on the verge of defeat before a sudden counteroffensive, which the Ukrainian Government claims was supported by Russian troops, "encircled thousands of Ukrainian troops and forced them into a retreat.[59] The militias soon re-captured several strategic positions such as "Savur-Mohyla and "Luhansk International Airport.[60] The armies of both the "Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) and "Luhansk People's Republic (LPR) merged on 16 September 2014 to form the "United Armed Forces of Novorossiya".[2][61]

On 2 February 2015, Head of the DPR, "Alexander Zakharchenko, announced that there would be a general mobilization in the DPR of 10,000 volunteers, and he aimed to eventually expand the NAF to 100,000 soldiers.[62]

On 20 May 2015 the leadership of the Federal State of Novorossiya announced the termination of the confederation 'project'[63] but the United Armed Forces was retained as the joint armed service of the DPR and LPR.[64]

On 14 September 2015, there was a war banner ceremony at the newly established Donetsk Higher Military Command School.[65] Zakharchenko addressed the new students, and congratulated them by saying they will be the officers to lead the DPR Armed Forces and resolve all conflicts.[65] Mikhail Tikhonov is the head of the school.[65]

In June 2016, the Donetsk People's Republic estimated that around 40,000 volunteer reserves can be mobilized in case of renewed fighting.[66]


Oplot Brigade during a rehearsal for the 2015 Victory Day parade

The militias consist of different armed groups, which took the oath for "Donetsk People's Republic and "Luhansk People's Republic. Militant groups which refused to do it were disarmed as gangs in the DPR.[67] Other groups are autonomous forces.[68]

According to "The Ukrainian Week, there is a Donetsk Operative Command set up in May 2016 by Russia that coordinates military efforts of the Donetsk People's Republic.[69] The tank battalions they claim Russia can deploy is the DPR Diesel Battalion, and LPR August Battalion.[69]

Combat forces[edit]

Flag of the Vostok Battalion
Flag of the Sparta Battalion
Flag of the Somalia Battalion

"Donetsk People's Republic Donetsk People's Republic[edit]

""Donbass People's Militia flag.png Donbass People's Militia ("Russian: Народное ополчение Донбасса)

Independent DPR forces[edit]

"Luhansk People's Republic Luhansk People's Republic[edit]

LPR People's Militia ("Russian: Народная милиция ЛНР). Formerly known as "Army of the South-East ("Russian: Армия Юго-Востока) until late 2014.[106][107][108]

Independent LPR forces[edit]

Flag of the Prizrak Brigade


Flag of the Rapid Response Group "Batman"

Non-combat units[edit]


Head of the "DPR, Alexander Zakharchenko

"Donetsk People's Republic Donetsk People's Republic

"Luhansk People's Republic Luhansk People's Republic


Vikings Battalion infantrymen with Russian military equipment in July 2015

According to independent sources, rebels mostly used equipment that was available domestically before the "Ukrainian crisis. However, the rebels were also seen using weapons that were not known to be exported to or otherwise available in Ukraine. Appearance of some of the latest models of "Russian military equipment, which was never exported outside of Russia, is particularly noteworthy.[134]

According to the "Donetsk People's Republic all its military equipment is "hardware that we took from the Ukrainian military".[135] However, according to the Ukrainian government and the "United States Department of State this is a false statement and claim the separatists have received military equipment from "Russia, including multiple rocket launch systems and tanks.[136] Despite the fact that Russian officials deny supplying arms to the militia, numerous evidence proves that it is true.[134][136][137] In August 2014 "Ukrainian Defense Minister "Valeriy Heletey claimed the proof for the weapons supply from Russia was that the fighters of the Donbass People's Militia were using Russian-made weapons that were never used (or bought) by the "Ukrainian army.[138] NAF militias acquired many Ukrainian military vehicles and equipment during the "Ilovaisk and "Debaltseve cauldrons, following the Ukrainian retreat. The DPR estimated that it captured 471 pieces of heavy equipment (including "AFVs) in Debaltseve, with two thirds being returned to serviceable conditions by their repair shops.[66]

Among such exclusively Russian equipment seen with pro-Russian separatists are Russian modifications of tank "T-72 (particularly "T-72B3 and "T-72BA seen destroyed in Ukraine[134][139]), infantry fighting vehicle "BTR-82AM (adopted in Russia in 2013),[140][141] armored personnel carriers "BPM-97,[142][143] sophisticated anti-aircraft system "Pantsir-S1,[144][145] multipurpose vehicle "GAZ Vodnik (adopted in Russia in 2005),[142] Russian modifications of "MT-LB, rocket-propelled flamethrower "MRO-A, anti-tank missile "Kornet, anti-materiel rifle "ASVK, suppressed sniper rifle "VSS Vintorez and others.[134][140]

Relationship with Russia[edit]

""2018-05-09. День Победы в Донецке f065.jpg

As the conflict intensified, the Donbass People's Militia was bolstered with many volunteers from the former Soviet Union, mainly "Russia; including fighters from "Chechnya and "North Ossetia.[146]

According to the Ukrainian government and the "United States Department of State the Donbass People's Militia have received military equipment from Russia, including Russian tanks and multiple rocket launchers.[136] Russia denied doing this and has described the Russian citizens fighting with the Donbass People's Militia as volunteers.[136][147] The "Donetsk People's Republic claimed on 16 August 2014 it had received (together with 30 tanks and 120 other armoured vehicles of undisclosed origin) 1,200 "individuals who have gone through training over a four-month period on the territory of the "Russian Federation".[148][149] Prime Minister of the DPR "Alexander Zakharchenko stated in August 2014 that they have not received military equipment from Russia; but that all its military equipment is "hardware that we took from the Ukrainian military".[135] Despite a majority of the equipment being of Soviet or Ukrainian origin, there are signs of Russian material support such as ammunition, uniforms, radios, radar equipment, and reconnaissance UAVs.[66] Russia has also provided support through military trainers, advisers, and battlefield intelligence support. Evidence of this is seen from the high efficiency of the NAF in attacking and defending against the bigger sized Ukrainian military, the ability to quickly change objectives during a battle, and their organized joint combat roles of motorized and mechanized brigades.[66]

The injured of the Donbass People's Militia were exclusively treated in Russia.[146] During mid-August 2014, hospitals such as the Donetsk Central Hospital in "Donetsk, Russia attended to between 10 and 20 injured fighters daily.[146] The "Russian Emergency Ministry assisted with treatment logistics.[146] Those questioned and registered by the (Russian) "Federal Security Service[146] and treated in Russia during this period stated that they would not return to "Ukraine if the "Ukrainian army won the "War in Donbass,[146] but would, instead, engage in a "partisan warfare campaign in "Eastern Ukraine.[146]

See also[edit]



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