In his Liga.net article entitled: 'The silence of Donbas..it's time for the region to decide what side it is on', Serhiy Vysotsky suggests two possible outcomes.
I've loosely translated portions:
Today, only two scenarios are possible for Donbas.
It is no secret that against a backdrop of a passive majority, the active minority wholeheartedly supports the idea of so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics, even though the concept is vague and so far has only manifested itself in torture, kidnappings and robbery.
If Donbas decides to resist the bandits/anarchists imposed by the Kremlin then it will remain Ukrainian.
Citizens, with the support of security forces (but at the cost of many victims) will eventually clear the area of professional spies and mercenaries. Without external leadership the terrorists will dissipate or will transform into gangs that can be neutralized later.
The second, perhaps more prosaic scenario, looks more likely - the gradual transformation of the Donbas into a Somalia with the departure from the region of all normal and socially successful people. If this were to come about it will not be the result of security officials' caution but rather the passivity of the population which made possible the total control of the region by bandits and criminals in the 1990's.
Odesa, Kherson, Zaporizhzhe, Kharkiv have all clearly shown they have no plans to submit to a bunch of saboteurs and mercenaries. Only Donbas, offended by all, seems to await its fate passively.
The impression is that Ukraine is not engaged in a fight against terrorists on it territory, but rather some kind of colonial war is taking place. The population is either passively or openly opposing its own army, becoming a human shield in front of the security forces, allowing militants to fire behind their backs, the local police walking around with the ribbons of their occupiers and giving up the buildings of the authorities. All who saw the events in Mariupol can confirm ordinary people were involved in resisting Ukrainian troops.
With a passive majority and and active pro-Russian minority it will be impossible to keep the region as part of Ukraine without the loss of very many victims. Few Ukrainian politicians and generals want to turn Donbas into another Grozny for the sake of territorial integrity. Rivers of blood - this is not a price worth paying in the 21 st. century for the preservation of territory. To keep Donbas using brute force will require a strong satrap with dictatorial powers that will flood the region with money, but rule with an iron fist.
Otherwise it will be impossible to put the squeeze on terrorism. But there's a catch : the rest of Ukraine may not want to be an oppressor. People who fought against the dictatorship on the Maidan, will hardly want to become collective dictators themselves.
Sometimes it seems that the residents of Luhansk and Donetsk regions regard themselves as a prize in a struggle between two forces - Russian and Ukrainian . They are ready to submit to the stronger - to adapt. They are ready for colonization , even if this will mean the establishment of Russian-backed breakaway black hole - the People's Republic of Donetsk.
p.s. Lots of reports of looting by so-called separatists taking place in Mariyupol this evening...
p.p.s. Can't understand why separatists would want to cheat Sunday's referendum. According to the 'people's mayor' of Slovyansk, Vyacheslav Ponomaryov ; "The turn-out I think will be 100%. All will be in favour. Against - only the bourgeoisie."
Stories of a hundred thousand pre-filled ballot slips intercepted by pro-Kyiv law enforcement officials must be rubbish then.