The Donbas Foldbelt is part of the Prypiat-Dnieper-Donets intracratonic rift basin (Belarus-Ukraine-southern Russia) that developed in Late Devonian times and was reactivated in Early Carboniferous. To the southeast, the Donbas Foldbelt joins the contiguous, deformed Karpinsky Swell. Basin "inversions" led first to the uplift of the Palaeozoic series (mainly Carboniferous but also syn-rift Devonian strata in the southwesternmost part of the Donbas Foldbelt, which are deeply buried in the other parts of the rift system), and later to the formation of the fold-and-thrust belt. The general structural trend of the Donbas Foldbelt, formed mainly during rifting, is WNW-ESE. This is the strike of the main rift-related fault zones and also of the close to tight "Main Anticline" of the Donbas Foldbelt that developed along the previous rift axis. The Main Anticline is structurally unique in the Donbas Foldbelt and its formation was initiated in Permian times, during a period of (trans) tensional reactivation, during which active salt movements occurred. A relief inversion of the basin also took place at this time with a pronounced uplift of the southern margin of the basin and the adjacent Ukrainian Shield. Subsequently, Cimmerian and Alpine phases of tectonic inversion of the Donbas Foldbelt led to the development of flat and shallow thrusts commonly associated with folds into the basin. A fan-shaped deformation pattern is recognised in the field, with south-to southeast-vergent compressive structures, south of the Main Anticline, and north- to northwest-vergent ones, north of it. These compressive structures are clearly superimposed onto the WNW-ESE structural grain of the initial rift basin. Shortening structures that characterise the tectonic inversion of the basin are (regionally) orientated NW-SE and N-S. Because of the obliquity of the compressive trends relative to the WNW-ESE strike of inherited structures (major preexisting normal faults and the Main Anticline), in addition to reverse displacements, right lateral movements occurred along the main boundary fault zones and along the faulted hinge of the Main Anticline. The existence of preexisting structures is also thought to be responsible for local deviations in contractional trends (that are E-W in the southwesternmost part of the basin). © 2003 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.