Those hoping that eastern Ukraine’s Russian-controlled "people’s republics" may soon return to their homeland suffered significant setbacks last year. The trade blockade and the ensuing seizure of industrial assets hammered another wedge between them and the rest of Ukraine, while separatist hardliners triumphed in Luhansk, ousting local separatist leader Igor Plotnitsky in November. The security situation did not improve either: Government troops and separatist formations continued to move closer to each other, while seasonal swings of violence (e.g. a peak in August, followed by a sharp drop at the beginning of the school year) mirrored those of previous years. The blockade and ensuing economic separation only emboldened the so-called separatists in their calls for unification with Russia, despite occasional pledges that they continue to adhere to the Minsk agreement, which stipulates reintegration with Ukraine.