Why Luhansk and Donetsk are key to understanding the latest escalation in Ukraine

Ukrainian military forces walk in front of damaged buildings on the front line with Russia-backed separatists in Mariinka in the Donetsk region on Feb. 7.

The rebel-controlled territories, which comprise a larger eastern Ukraine region called Donbas that borders Russia, have been led by pro-Russia separatists for nearly a decade.

(Image credit: Aleksey Filippov/AFP via Getty Images)

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