Several thousand angry demonstrators gathered on 6th April one year ago, outside the regional government building in Donetsk, in eastern Ukraine, Russian flags carried by many in the crowd, along with anti-Europe and anti-US signs.
The object of their anger was the newly-installed power in Kyiv, following the ouster of Viktor Yanukovich in February, 2014.
“We’re against that gang,” said one protester. “I want a customs union with Russia. Kyiv doesn’t listen to us, neither does Europe.”
The month before, Moscow had annexed Crimea, and tempers and passions were being stoked in all the Russian-speaking parts of Ukraine.
“I’m worried what might happen to our country tomorrow,” said another demonstrator. “I don’t support a separation but I don’t recognise the current government. The oligarchs are in power again.”
That same day, in Luhansk, near the border with Russia, the security service headquarters was attacked by a crowd, also chanting ‘Russia!’ They demanded that people being detained be released, and that a referendum be held on the question of joining Russia.
The scene was the same in Kharkiv, the other big city in the east, as night fell. The centre of local administration was occupied.
Donetsk saw the pro-Russian crowd took over the building, the leaders calling for an emergency session of the regional parliament, to debate voting on uniting with Russia.
The next day, the Donetsk People’s Republic was proclaimed, unilaterally.
Acting Ukrainian President Alexander Turchinov levelled accusations at Russia:
“Dear Citizens, yesterday the second stage of a special Russian operation against Ukraine began. Ukraine’s enemies are trying to repeat what happened in Crimea, but we will not let that happen. A crisis unit has been set up, and an anti-terrorism operation will be launched against those who have taken up arms.”
Throughout the month of April, the separatist movement gathered momentum, until the conflict lurched into a war that no one had imagined on the fringes of Europe.