Thank you for the question.
Russian leaders make the point that the conflict did not begin in February last year. It began eight years before, in February 2014.
That's when an elected Ukrainian President (Viktor Yanukovych) was overthrown in Kyiv by ethnonationalist paramilitaries.
Whether you call what happened a coup, a revolution, or an insurrection, it was vigorously resisted in regions that voted for Yanukovych.
The post insurrection regime was never accepted in the major eastern cities Donetsk and Lugansk, or in Crimea.
Since then, governments in Kyiv have made repeated attempts to bombard Donetsk and Lugansk into submission.
Russia tried to negotiate with the Kyiv régime and its western allies, resulting in the Minsk agreements. But these agreements were never implemented by Kyiv.