People in eastern Ukraine think fighting will resume soon, though they don't know when, said Tim Judah, correspondent for The Economist and The New York Review of Books.
Judah recently returned from the Donbas region where he spent time with both Ukrainian and separatist forces.
According to Judah, towns and villages in the East have been badly damaged but they have not been completely destroyed. He told Hromadske that several media sources have exaggerated the extent of the damage and that it is not as bad as it could be.
However, Judah who was the regional correspondent for The Economist during the Yugoslav wars, says only superficial comparisons can be made between the two conflicts. The extent of the damage and destruction in East Ukraine has been exaggerated by several media sources and does not yet amount to the aftermath of the Yugoslav wars, fought over 4 years.
The comparisons between the Yugoslav war are overstated, the obvious one being between Sarajevo and Donetsk. The difference was that Sarajevo was a siege and people could not leave the city, whereas in Donetsk people can still move in and out and fighting is just on one side of the city.
Although Russia has certainly “fanned the flames and created the conflict”, there is no point of in ignoring the fact that there is still an element of civil conflict in this conflict, he said.
Judah also investigated the rumors of Balkan fighters in the East and found that there are at most two small sets: Serbs fighting on the side of the separatists in Donetsk and 6 Croats allegedly fighting with the Azov battalion, a Ukrainian volunteer battalion. However, the Serbs he encountered seemed to be more intent on fighting each other and he was unable to confirm the Azov battalion’s claims of Croats fighters fighting with them.
Judah assess that many Serbs are pro-Russian but the Serbian government has been trying to “ride two horses” over the Ukraine conflict. In some respects they are under pressure to align with EU foreign policy, a fact which could be aided by the recent cancellation of plans the South Stream Pipeline, a gas pipeline from Russia through to Serbia. Serbia is also chairman of the OSCE which gives them added incentive to remain impartial.
Hromadske International's Nataliya Gumenyuk and guest co-host Gulliver Cragg spoke with Tim Judah in Kyiv on Sunday, March 29, 2015.