Yet in many ways, Donetsk and Luhansk are now more integrated into Russia than Ukraine. Commerce is carried out in roubles. Schools have moved to Russian educational standards. According to RBC, a Russian business newspaper, Russia has begun accepting passports from the unrecognised republics when people buy train and plane tickets. “Donetsk is not coming back,” says Sergei Chumak, a technician at the coking factory.
The new American administration has not decided what it wants in Ukraine. Yulia Tymoshenko, a former prime minister who wants to supplant Mr Poroshenko, flew to Washington last week to ingratiate herself with Donald Trump. Some think he may strike a bargain with Mr Putin (see Briefing) to push Ukraine to implement the Minsk agreements on Moscow’s terms. That, says Ms Mostovaya, “would raise the question of what our soldiers were fighting and dying for all these years.”