Tim Judah is a correspondent for The Economist. For The New York Review he has reported from, among other places, Afghanistan, Serbia, Uganda, and Armenia.

Balkan Poison, Revisited

Serbian ultra-nationalist leader Vojislav Šešelj (left), with paramilitary leader Dragan Vasiljković (“Captain Dragan”) and other Serbian fighters, Croatia, circa 1991

The recent verdicts in The Hague, regarding the Balkan wars of the 1990s, have coincided with a series of stunning new films about the same time and region. Books and films about the wars of the 1990s may not be able to change politics but, as the UN’s tribunal winds down its work, they remind us how these legacies remain very much alive.

Ukraine: Pictures of a Ceasefire

In mid-February a second Ukrainian ceasefire came into effect. The fighting has not stopped, though it has been much reduced. Few people think it will last. The morale of soldiers on both sides is high. Civilians who remain in the areas where there is fighting have been emerging from their shelters and trying to resume some sort of normal life, though some still live underground. A huge proportion of the people who live in these areas have left. I took the following photos while reporting for The New York Review of Books from the region last month.

Ukraine: Inside the Deadlock

Galya Malchik, a resident of Karapyshi, Ukraine, who told Tim Judah that a local man with a truck had asked for donations of food for Ukrainian troops in the east, but that he received so much that he left before she could give him her contribution, March 2015
As winter turns to spring, soldiers on both sides of the front line are anything but tired of the war. Spirits are high and demoralization and exhaustion have not yet set in. Both sides are better organized than before and their commanders are trying to second-guess where the other will attack when the cease-fire breaks down completely, as they all assume it will soon. If and when it does, there are three main possible outcomes.

Ukraine: Two Poets in the War

Luhansk, East Ukraine, November 28, 2014

In general terms, most Ukrainians, are more united than ever and many say that Vladimir Putin and the war have done more to strengthen Ukrainian patriotism than anything since independence in 1991. But it is impossible to ignore that the conflict is by now not only a matter of aggression by Russia but also a civil war in the east.

Ukraine: Divided and Bitter

Missile casings and unexploded shells in front of a statue of Lenin, Pervomaysk, Ukraine, March 20, 2015

In eastern Ukraine, civilians are suffering, as they do in all wars, but in this one, older people are suffering the most. Even when peace returns to Pervomaysk, it will have to contend with a fresh layer of bitterness. As in war-ravaged parts of the Balkans, buildings can be rebuilt, but if there is no work and no reason to return, then places like this will dwindle and die.

The Specter Facing Ukraine

A rebel soldier guarding the ruins of the Savur-Mogila Memorial, September 6, 2014. The memorial, which commemorated the Soviet capture of a strategic hill near Snizhne in ­eastern Ukraine, was destroyed in fighting between Ukrainian and rebel forces in August 2014. According to Tim Judah, ‘journalists are told not to take pictures that show the faces of rebel fighters.’ For more of his photographs from eastern Ukraine, see the NYRgallery blog, nybooks.com/ukraine-war.
When I returned to Ukraine at the end of August I went to see a senior diplomat in Kiev. He told me that things had changed so fast since I had been there in the spring that Ukraine was already “a different country” from the one it had been then.

Ukraine: What Putin Has Won

Pro-Russian demonstrators in Donetsk, with a sign showing the ousted Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovych, who was born in the province of Donetsk and had been its governor prior to his presidency, March 30, 2014
Inside Ukraine, driving north from the Sea of Azov, an appendage of the Black Sea, along rutted country roads that snake parallel to the Russian border, we saw abandoned Ukrainian military encampments and the twisted remains of tanks, armored personnel carriers, and other vehicles. The Ukrainian cell phone signal died and our phones picked up the Russian one. Wherever we met rebel soldiers, they joked and chatted. They were relaxed.

Scenes from Eastern Ukraine

August 29: Before the ceasefire, Mariupol, a city on the Sea of Azov with a population of roughly 500,000, was eerily quiet. Many had left in anticipation of the rebel advance. When there was shelling or rocket fire to the east of the city it could be heard on the beach.

In late August, Russian-backed rebel forces launched a devastating counter-offensive against Ukrainian troops. They drove them out of border areas of both the Luhansk and Donetsk regions in eastern Ukraine, retook areas south of Donetsk and advanced to within a few miles of the port of Mariupol. A ceasefire came into effect on September 5. It is holding in most areas, but not everywhere. Few have confidence that the fighting is really over and that both the Ukrainians on one side and the rebels and their backers from Russia on the other have not simply called half-time. The following photos were taken by Tim Judah while reporting for The New York Review over the past few weeks.

Ukraine: A Catastrophic Defeat

Rebels driving past destroyed Ukrainian military vehicles near Novokaterinivka, Ukraine, September 2, 2014

The scale of the devastation suffered by Ukrainian forces in southeastern Ukraine has to be seen to be believed. On a sixteen-mile stretch of road from the village of Novokaterinivka to the town of Ilovaysk, I counted the remains of sixty-eight vehicles, in which a large but as yet unknown number of Ukrainian soldiers died trying to flee the area.

The Battle for Ukraine

Local miners at a rally in support of the Donetsk People’s Republic with a banner showing a miner smashing a swastika in the color of Ukraine’s flag, May 28, 2014
On May 29 the bodies of more than thirty men killed fighting Ukrainians on the outskirts of Donetsk were loaded into a truck and sent home to Russia. The truck, on which a red cross had been hastily painted and which normally delivers chilled food, said on the side: “Fresh produce, to serve you better.” Four days earlier Petro Poroshenko had been elected president of Ukraine by a crushing margin. Both events marked the beginning of a new chapter in the story of the battle for Ukraine.

Ukraine: Progress Without Peace

Coffins at the Donetsk morgue of pro-Russian gunmen killed in fighting at the local airport, Donetsk, Ukraine, May 29, 2014

Ukraine’s president-elect Petro Poroshenko has his work cut out for him. He needs to end the rebellion in the east, make deals with Ukraine’s powerful oligarchs, fend off a possible threat from Tymoshenko, shore up a sinking economy, and talk to the Kremlin. One Ukrainian journalist told me that some people in Kiev are thinking that it might be better to let the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Luhansk go.

Ukraine’s Stalled Rebellion

A rebel checkpoint with a bust of Lenin in the village of Semenovka, Sloviansk, May 22, 2014

As Ukrainians go to the polls to elect a new president, something strange is happening in the east. Its rebels, who a few weeks ago were triumphantly wrenching the region away from Kiev, now seem stalled; but without much sign that the government in Kiev is recapturing its lost authority. Rebel control is partial, but few are ready to risk being beaten, kidnapped, or worse to help run polling stations—or vote.

Looking for Ukraine

An effigy of the Kiev authorities hanging above a barricade, Sloviansk, eastern Ukraine, May 11, 2014
Just as the rebels say that the government and the people who support it are fascists, the government says that all the rebels are terrorists—and in fact neither is true. Between a few in government with an extreme right-wing past and a few in rebel territory who have used extreme violence to seize power, the vast majority of people in the east are simply downtrodden and trapped.

Ukraine: Hate in Progress

A rebel salute at the funeral of Aleksandr Lubenets, presumably killed by Ukrainian forces, Khrestysche, eastern Ukraine, April 2014

Talk to people manning the anti-government barricades in eastern Ukraine, and one thing in particular is scary. They talk as though they were a long persecuted minority, as if they have forgotten that easterners under former president Viktor Yanukovych ran the country until February. All they seem to register is a hysterical drumbeat from Russia about the new Nazis of Kiev and their NATO masters.

Ukraine: The Phony War?

A pro-Russian protester talking to Ukrainian soldiers, whose convoy was halted by a pro-Russian crowd, Kramatorsk, eastern Ukraine, April 16, 2014
In late April, traveling in eastern Ukraine, I was in the midst of its phony war. Threats were flying, ultimatums were delivered, and jets screamed low over the countryside. Trees were felled to block back roads, tires were piled up to build barricades, and men from backwater towns strutted with their guns, their lives suddenly seeming to have purpose. In eastern Ukraine, where neatly kept memorials commemorate the fallen of the great battles fought there by the Red Army during World War II, all the omens seemed to tell of war coming once again. But even at the eleventh hour it is not inevitable.

Fighting for the Soul of Ukraine

Antigovernment protesters with a flag showing imprisoned former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, Kiev, Ukraine, November 24, 2013
“Revolution!” This is what they are shouting in Kiev. Ever since November 21 tens of thousands have been on the streets of the capital of Ukraine, defying the police and bans on demonstrations. On December 8 hundreds of thousands packed the city center, and a granite statue of Lenin was toppled in a scene recalling both Europe’s anti-Communist revolutions of 1989 and the symbolic fall of Saddam’s statue in Baghdad in 2003. Especially at the beginning of the demonstrations the riot police have reacted brutally, which brought out many more protesters. At times hard-liners among the demonstrators have resorted to violence but some of the violent actions seem to have been led by government-paid provocateurs.

Armenia Survives!

Statue of Alexander Tamanian, the architect of Republic Square and the opera house, in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, with the city’s Cascade staircase in the background
You only have to spend a day or two walking around the capital city of Yerevan to understand just how much the past shapes Armenian thinking about the present and the future. The capital is full of sculptures and monuments to musicians, poets, and national heroes. In recent years there has been a considerable building boom in the city’s center. I started to walk from Republic Square, with its vaulting pink stone and arched monumental buildings, which date from the 1920s.

At Last, Good News from the Balkans

Bosnian Muslim widows during a prayer for the dead at the July 2001 groundbreaking of the Srebrenica-Potocˇari memorial site, dedicated to the thousands of Muslim men and boys who were massacred by Bosnian Serb forces in 1995; photographs by Sara Terry fr
If you only want bad news from the Balkans, it is easy enough to find. You can read the next few lines and then read something else. Bosnia is on the brink of war again. Kosovo’s independence is “a failure.” Serbs are scheming, unredeemable extreme nationalists, and organized crime is …

Serbia: The Coming Storm

With so much else going on in the world it is hardly surprising that the Balkans get so little attention in the international press. The editor of a magazine I write for recently asked what was going on in Croatia. I replied: “Things are pretty good. The economy is improving …

The Waiting Game in the Balkans

In Bibici, a small Bosnian Serb village near Srebrenica this June, I met Radivoje Bibic, the local bus driver. He told me that from the beginning of the Bosnian war in 1992, Muslims from Srebrenica had occupied the village, from which the Serbs had fled. Only after Srebrenica fell in …

The Stakes in Darfur

On September 9, Colin Powell declared that genocide was taking place in Darfur in western Sudan. But during a recent three-week visit to Sudan I met few people who claimed that genocide—as distinct from systematic war crimes—was going on there. I spoke with Darfur’s African rebels, who talked about poor …

Uganda: The Secret War

War, cannibalism, sex slavery, massacre, and mayhem are not usually words that one associates with Uganda. Indeed, if you mention this East African country to people outside East Africa they will likely say: “But I thought Uganda was one of the more successful African nations.” In many respects it is, …

Impasse in Kosovo

This was not supposed to be happening any more. In late March in the gym in the school in Gracanica, a Serbian enclave in Kosovo, Serbs whose houses had just been set fire to or otherwise damaged by ethnic Albanians sat around listlessly on the mattresses and beds provided for …

The Fog of Justice

If you lived through the Yugoslav wars it is strange to find how events can catch up with you. They sometimes seem to have happened yesterday, even though they took place years ago. In November I was in The Hague watching the trial of the former Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic.

‘Welcome to al-Sadr City!’

If you walk the streets of Baghdad at night it is best to move quickly and keep to the shadows. You can often hear gunfire, but whether it comes from people celebrating something or from, as they say here, gangs of “Ali Babas”—thieves—robbing someone, who knows? Groups of men hang …

The Fall of Baghdad

On the morning of April 10, the day after resistance collapsed in most of Baghdad, I talked to a small group of looters at a warehouse belonging to the Ministry of Finance who were carting off brand-new water coolers and air-conditioning units. Except when they scuffled with one another, they …

Death in Baghdad

From my room on the ninth floor of the Hotel Rashid in the center of Baghdad I had a view of half the city. Colleagues across the corridor had a view of the other half. On Friday night, March 21, Baghdad came under an intense, spectacular bombardment. Buildings seemed to …

On the Front Lines

Shoresh, where I met Hajar Mullah Omar, is just inside the autonomous Kurdish-ruled part of northern Iraq; it has been beyond Saddam Hussein’s control since 1991, thanks to a US- and British-imposed no-fly zone. It is thirty miles from the big city of Mosul, deep inside Saddam’s territory. You might …

Waiting for the War

In Amman, the capital of Jordan, the waiting is intense. “It is the uncertainty that’s killing us,” said a young woman in one of the city’s ministries as freezing rain lashed the streets outside. When is the war going to start? How long will it last? What will happen? Everyone …