Gubarev had earlier declared himself leader of the Donbass People"s Militia. But since then he has been sidelined by other separatist leaders and was banned from taking part in the 2014 Donbass parliamentary elections. These elections also eliminated the post of "People"s Governor".
Gubarev was not a major figure in local politics prior to the beginning of the 2014 pro-Russian conflict in Ukraine.
Shortly after declaring himself "People"s Governor" on March 6, Gubarev was arrested by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) for "advocating separatism" and "illegal seizure of power". He faced up to ten years in prison.
On 7 May, Gubarev was freed in exchange for SBU officers detained earlier by the Donbass People"s Militia. Gubarev gained a degree in history from the Donetsk National University, and later became an employee of a Donetsk advertising agency.
In 2007 he founded and served as the company director of the "Morozko" company, which supplied hired Ded Moroz (Santa Claus) figures in the Donetsk area.
According to an unnamed acquaintance, Gubarev advocates Pan-Slavism. Gubarev has publicly given thanks to this group for providing him with military training. In the same interview he said he was not a radical nationalist and described himself as "centre-left".
On 1 March 2014, pro-Russian citizens at a meeting in Lenin Square in the center of Donetsk elected Gubarev as governor of the region.
From the beginning of the 2014 Crimean crisis, Gubarev led pro-Russian protesters who blockaded and occupied the Donetsk Regional State Administration building. During a press-conference with journalists on 6 March 2014, Gubarev stated that his main goal as the self-proclaimed governor was to declare a referendum on the territorial status of Donetsk Oblast, non-recognition of the new Ukrainian government, and non-recognition of Donetsk governor Serhiy Taruta.
On 6 March 2014 the Security Service of Ukraine arrested Gubarev. Following his arrest, Gubarev was reportedly taken to Kiev for detention.
He was later charged with wanting to damage "the territorial integrity and independence of the state".
On 16 March, a crowd of protesters stormed government buildings in Donetsk demanding Gubarev"s release. On 7 May 2014 Gubarev and two other pro-Russian activists were freed in exchange for SBU officers, detained earlier by the Donbass People"s Militia. In October 2014, during a failed assassination attempt on him, Gubarev lost control of his car when it came under gunfire and suffered a head injury.
He later regained consciousness and was moved from intensive care to the ordinary ward of the hospital.
Gubarev was excluded by the election commission from participating in the 2014 Donbass parliamentary elections "because his party was not able to hold a founding conference". Early February 2016 Gubarev was appointed Yasynuvata Raion mayor by the Donetsk People"s Republic.