When rural men from Western Ukraine were sent by the Ukrainian authorities to Donbas to take part in a military operation, they found themselves in a completely different territory with Russian as a dominant language. Hence most of them really believed that they fight with Russians, i.e. with Russia. Moreover, in contrast to Russian language with different words for the Russian language (‘Russkiy’) and for the concepts that have relation to Russia (‘rossiyskiy’), in Ukrainian the same word ‘rosiys’kyy’ is used. Hence it followed for the military men from Western Ukraine that Russian speakers are Russians. As a result, until nowadays many believe that Russian soldiers are present in Donbas.
The DNR and LNR gained independence from Ukraine and are now fighting a civil war against the Ukrainian armed forces controlled by Kyiv, which are supported by the West.
Recurring pro-Kremlin disinformation narrative about the war in Ukraine.
Donetsk and Luhansk are part of Ukraine and controlled by Russia-backed armed formations. Not a single country has recognised them as independent. The war in Ukraine was provoked by Russia - it is not a civil war.
The Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has stated that “the information available suggests that the situation within the territory of Crimea and Sevastopol amounts to an international armed conflict between Ukraine and the Russian Federation." This international armed conflict began at the latest on 26 February when the Russian Federation deployed members of its armed forces to gain control over parts of Ukrainian territory without the consent of the Ukrainian Government. Further debunk here.
MV-lehti's editor-in-chief resided for years in occupied Donetsk and founded another media outlet there. In the "About" section of the website the war in Ukraine is described as a "civil war", which is recurring pro-Kremlin disinformation. See the archived version of the web page here.