The following is an excerpt from Isaac Chotiner | October 18, 2016 | Slate.com |
In Wartime: Stories From Ukraine is not Tim Judah’s first experience writing about a conflict region. Two decades ago, he wrote The Serbs, now considered a classic account of the ethnic conflicts that sundered Yugoslavia. Unlike the Balkans, Judah makes clear in his new book, Ukraine is not threatened by genocide or, at the moment, complete fracture. But after the Maidan Revolution of 2014, which was followed by the Russian annexation of Crimea and the Russian-sponsored conflict in Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region, the country remains contested ground: between the West and Vladimir Putin, between genuine reformers and oligarchs in Kiev, and between different conceptions of what it means to be Ukrainian.
Judah’s book is full of detailed reporting from both Western and Eastern Ukraine—he covered the conflict with Russia for the New York Review of Books—and although he sympathizes with the attempts to strengthen the government in Kiev and repel Russian aggression, his book offers a nuanced portrait of people on all sides of the conflict. During the course of a phone conversation, which has been edited and condensed for clarity, we discussed the surprising strength of Ukraine’s military, Russia’s possible miscalculations, and the looming question of Vladimir Putin’s ultimate ambitions.
How would you describe the divisions in Ukraine? From a distance it seems like an unusually divided country, in terms of politics, language, etc.
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