Posting this here for future reference in case anyone wants to talk about “civil war in Ukraine” again, or insist that “DNR” and “LNR” were in any way independent entities. The European Court of Human Rights recently published a ruling which says that Russia was entirely in control of the “separatist” areas since at least 11 May 2014 when they held “independence referendums”.
This is part of a large case where the governments of Ukraine and the Netherlands are suing the government of Russia over the shooting down of flight MH17 and a long list of crimes committed in Donbas (attacks against civilians, torture, rape, abductions, etc.) The ruling so far is only concerned with the admissibility of the case - i.e. whether Russia can be held accountable since it did not officially claim control over “DNR” and “LNR” until very recently. You can read the whole 230 page decision and the 810 page annex which summarises the evidence considered by the court, but here are some of the most pertinent conclusions: