Luhansk, Ukraine. Editorial credit: Vitalii Vitleo /

Luhansk, Ukraine

Luhansk, or Luganst as it is also known, is a city in Eastern Ukraine. It is considered the capital city of the self-proclaimed "Lugansk People's Republic." These designations were assumed by the pro-Russia separatists that currently occupy the semi-independent zone. These zones are not recognized by Ukraine, the European Union, or the United States as legitimate, though they were recently recognized by Russia and several other nations or states. Ukraine now uses the city of Severodonetsk as the acting capital of Luhansk. 

The region of Luhansk has recently seen large-scale movement by the Russian military as it invades Ukraine by land, sea, air, and through cyber attacks. Violent conflict immediately erupted as Russian forces attacked many other major cities and ports throughout the country on the morning of February 24th, 2022. This invasion was met by retaliatory responses by the Ukrainian military, some of which occurred around Luhansk.

Geography And Climate Of Luhansk

Luhansk, Ukraine
Luhan River flowing through Lugansk (Luhansk), Ukraine

Luhansk city is located in Eastern Ukraine, along the Lugan river. It is situated in the high-conflict zone of the larger region, after which it is named. The broader area of Luhansk is situated between Donetsk, or "Donetsk People's Republic," to the West, which is another partially separatist-controlled area, and the Russian border, which surrounds the Northern, Eastern, and Southern aspects. Luhansk and Donetsk are collectively known as Donbas (i.e., the fully occupied zone in Southeastern Ukraine). 

Luhansk exists in a steppe climate - a semi-arid region known for grassy plains produced by the large seasonal temperature swings and modest rain. In fact, the lowest (-43.4 degrees Fahrenheit) and the highest (107.6 degrees Fahrenheit) temperatures ever recorded in Ukraine were registered in Luhansk. The limited rainfall (10 - 20 inches per year) maintains a moderate-length grassy landscape. The level of precipitation is insufficient for taller grasses or trees to grow. 

History And Unfolding Conflict

In 1795, the city of Luhansk (first named Lugansky Plant in 1797) began as a settlement near the Lugan river. It was built to support the cast-iron mill, which was the first in the South of the Russian Empire.

During the War of 1812, Luhansk served as one of the main suppliers of cannons and ammunition for the Russian army. Later in the 19th century, the region transformed into an important trade hub. In 1882, Luhansk was officially founded as a city. Over the next hundred years, the city was renamed several times before re-establishing the current designation in 1990. 

In 2014, protestors in the Luhansk region took over government buildings and proclaimed the area as "Lugansk People's Republic." These events were largely sparked by Ukraine's refusal to sign a free trade agreement with the European Union. Ukrainian President at the time, Viktor Yanukovych, cited pressure from Russia to refuse the deal. Since then, armed conflict has ensued between Ukraine forces and the people defending the pro-separatist zone of Lugansk People's Republic, among other areas. These clashes unfolded even during mutually-agreed ceasefires. 

As of February 24th, 2022, Russian forces used Luhansk as a key access point for their land invasion of Ukraine. The country-wide attack is widely considered unprovoked and immediately spawned threats of harsh economic sanctions by G7 nations, including the United States. It is believed that Russia's full-scale assault on Ukraine could lead to Western and European nations' military action that has declared support for Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed that the intention was and remained the "...demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine." 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy promised to provide weapons to any citizens willing to come forward to defend their nation against Russian aggressors. This unfolding situation will likely see many important events, updates, conflicts, and other international activities over the coming days and beyond. 

Visiting Luhansk  

Though visiting Luhansk can be an intriguing experience during sunnier times, the ongoing conflict makes this nearly impossible and ill-advised. Citizens of Ukraine can only enter if they have relatives in the region, which now sits at a population of about 1.5 million people. Even then, they can only access Luhansk by going through Russia. This requires special registration. 

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