Separatist forces of the War in Donbass, or the United Armed Forces of Novorossiya(Russian: Объединённые Вооруженные Силы Новороссии; acronym NAF) 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, the Luhansk People's Militia and autonomous armed groups. They are regarded as terrorist groupsby the Government of Ukraine.
United Armed Forces of NovorossiyaОбъединённые Вооруженные Силы Новороссии￼
War flag of Novorossiya
Founded3 March 2014
(as Donbass People's Militia)Current form16 September 2014LeadershipMinister of DefenceOleg Bugrov (arrested)(Luhansk People's Republic)
Position allegedly abolished in the DPR on 1 October 2018.ManpowerActive personnel10,000 – 20,000 (July 2014)
30,000 – 35,000 (March 2015)
40,000 – 45,000 (June 2015)
The Donbass People's Militia was formed by Pavel Gubarev, who was elected "People's Governor" of Donetsk Oblast by pro-Russian protesters. 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 regionof Ukraine. The militia was accused by the Ukrainian government of culpability in the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17on 17 July 2014, but the Donetsk People's Republic disputed this claim. 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".
It is widely believed that the separatists are supported by Russian armed forces.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. 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". 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.[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.