Volhynia and the forgotten massacre of the Second World War

Completely innocent men, women and children have been slaughtered. ‘Terrorism’ hardly suffices to describe the savage rampage beyond the Gaza Wall undertaken by men from Hamas on 7 October. In the aftermath of the Second World War, when knowledge emerged of the crimes perpetrated by Nazi Germans and their collaborators, humanity vowed ‘Never Again’. Yet the world has descended once more into ever lower levels of depravity. What is more, thousands of innocents are now being killed as collateral in the on-going counterattacks. The kibbutz of Kfar Aza and kibbutz Be’eri, where some of the most barbaric crimes were carried out by Hamas, joins the long list of places of infamy where

Melanie McDonagh

Should Kyiv really ban the Ukrainian Orthodox Church?

The war in Ukraine, which was until 7 October the only foreign news we could think about, is no longer centre stage but is continuing in an increasingly attritional way. And Ukrainian politics continue, inevitably, to be dominated by the war with the result that fundamental freedoms are now a casualty of the conflict. Specifically, there is a bill before the Ukrainian parliament, which has already passed its first reading, that would ban the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. This historically has been located within the Russian Orthodox Church, whose leader, Patriarch Kirill, is notoriously invested in the war, on the Russian side. He is, moreover, close to Vladimir Putin. The bill would

Lisa Haseldine

Cameron’s Ukraine trip provides a welcome boost for Zelensky

Just days after returning to government as Lord Cameron, the former prime minister and new Foreign Secretary has made his first foreign visit. Unsurprisingly, the destination of this trip was Kyiv, to meet with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky.  The news of Cameron’s visit broke early this morning, although whether it took place this morning or earlier in the week remains unclear thanks to the wartime high security protocols that exist around such visits. In footage posted by Zelensky to X/Twitter, the Ukrainian premier is shown welcoming Cameron and his delegation to Kyiv. Shaking hands, Cameron calls it an ‘enormous honour’ to meet Zelensky. Cameron’s visit to Ukraine will have provided

Svitlana Morenets

Zelensky must be honest about the state of the war

‘Happy New Year! The year of our victory!’ said Volodymyr Zelensky on 1 January. After the liberation of the Kharkiv region and Kherson, Ukrainians entered the ninth year of the war with hope that they could win. Light will always prevail over darkness, Zelensky likes to say. But now the counter-offensive is nearly over, having made crushingly few gains. With western support waning, Kyiv needs to be honest about how the war is going and what it will take to turn the tide. Ukrainians should be told that there is a shortage of soldiers and that mass conscription is urgently needed After Zelensky, the most popular figure in Ukraine is Valery

Mark Galeotti

Is the West losing interest in Ukraine?

There’s a very different tone coming from Kyiv these days. Speaking to Time magazine, Volodymyr Zelensky had just returned from Washington after failing to make another impassioned public address on Capitol Hill, and not even managing to get on Oprah. The Ukrainian president sounded angry. The constant struggle to maintain international support seems to be taking its toll. ‘Nobody believes in our victory like I do. Nobody,’ he insisted, but added that dragging Ukraine’s allies along with him ‘takes all your power, your energy… It takes so much of everything.’ Meanwhile, in the Economist, Gen. Valery Zaluzhny, commander in chief of the Ukrainian armed forces, and another icon of national resilience,

Putin is scraping the barrel with ‘glide bombs’ in Ukraine

It’s not easy to say this, but Ukraine’s offensive to retake lost territory has fizzled out. Autumnal weather has turned the rolling steppe into a sea of mud. Like last winter, the conflict has entered a renewed phase of static, attritional warfare. It means that any new attempt to break through Russian lines will need to wait until at least April of next year. Ukraine’s failure is easy to explain. First, Russia’s defensive line has proved to be much more impenetrable than anyone expected, with minefields that run nearly a mile deep in places. Second, although the West has donated a number of armoured vehicles, including Leopard 2 main battle

Lisa Haseldine

Why Putin thinks war with Ukraine is like the Israel-Palestine conflict

Who is to blame for the shocking pogrom in the Dagestani city of Makhachkala, where a mob of hundreds stormed the local airport in search of Jews on a flight from Tel Aviv? Vladimir Putin has offered a predictable answer: the West. In a meeting with Russia’s security council and law enforcement agencies, president Putin said the actions of the anti-Semitic mob in Dagestan were ‘inspired through social media, including originating from Ukraine, created at the hands of agents of Western intelligence services’.  Putin is trying to present his invasion as an existential fight against encroaching Western influence Putin then went further, suggesting that the US could also be blamed for war in

Mark Galeotti

Are Ukraine’s sabotage tricks going too far?

There has never been any doubt that Ukraine was the focus of an intelligence war as much as a physical one. But the extent of Western assistance, as well as growing concern at some Ukrainian tactics, is only now becoming clear. On Monday, the Washington Post ran a lengthy examination of the level of CIA assistance for the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) and military intelligence (HUR) that bore all the hallmarks of being facilitated by the US government. It acknowledged that since the annexation of Crimea in 2014, the Americans has invested ‘tens of millions’ of dollars in training and technical assistance for their Ukrainian counterparts, even building new headquarters

Svitlana Morenets

Will the new US Speaker spell trouble for aid to Ukraine?

For the past few weeks, the US House Speaker’s chair has sat empty. Kevin McCarthy was ousted from the position on 3 October amid accusations from some Republicans that he was colluding with Democrats in a ‘secret deal’ to assist Ukraine. While the position has been vacant, critical legislation, including aid for Ukraine, has not been able to pass. But with the election of Mike Johnson, an ally of Donald Trump who is known to be Ukraine-sceptic, US politicians may have chosen their stance on the conflict. This development follows a decline in support for aid to Ukraine among both Democratic and Republican voters. Republicans for Ukraine, an advocacy group seeking support

Mark Galeotti

ATACMS missiles alone won’t change the game in Ukraine

America’s ATACMS long-range missiles were a potential ‘game changer’ to the war in Ukraine to some, a potential source of escalation to others. Now, with no real sense that either has proved true following Zelensky’s confirmation this week they were used for the first time, what does that tell us? The MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) undoubtedly offers Kyiv new capabilities. It can deliver a 500-pound warhead or hundreds of cluster bomblets very accurately to a range of up to 190 miles. Unlike the Anglo-French Storm Shadows already in use, the two-ton missile is fired from a tracked HIMARS launcher rather than an aircraft and thus can respond very

Europe needs to step up on Ukraine

Vasyl, a burly, tattooed infantry commander who lost a leg to a Russian mine on the eastern front, sits swinging his remaining leg on the edge of the treatment table in the ‘Unbroken’ rehabilitation clinic in Lviv. He’s been inside the Russian trenches 50 times, he tells me. His stories are reminiscent of the first world war. I ask him what Ukraine needs for victory. Answer: ‘Motivated people.’ His T-shirt proclaims ‘no sacrifice, no victory’. After we shake hands and I wish him luck, he suddenly jumps off the table and starts skipping at amazing speed, his blue skipping rope whizzing around under his one foot, while he looks at

Ukraine’s fight has been eclipsed by the ‘Other War’

The first indication that this was a literary festival like no other came with the request to provide ‘proof of life’ questions in case of kidnap. I’ve been to some unusual festivals – earlier this year I found myself discussing war-rape, ancient and modern, with the classicist Mary Beard on a barefoot island in the Maldives – and had some unusual festival encounters, such as the woman who asked me to sign a book to her dead husband, adding that he was reading it when he died. This, however, was my first in a war zone. There was a polite warning from the Lviv Book Forum organisers: ‘If there is an

Svitlana Morenets

Is Russia’s latest offensive faltering?

Russia’s latest offensive has exacted a heavy toll on its forces. They have lost 127 tanks, 239 armoured personnel vehicles and 161 artillery systems in the past week, according to Kyiv, with the casualties reaching more than 3,000 military personnel. Vladimir Putin is trying to change the narrative, framing Russian forces’ actions as ‘active defence’ rather than ‘active combat operations’. While Putin tries to temper expectations of major frontline gains, the battle for Avdiivka persists, albeit with waning intensity. ‘I hope that these dirtbags who settled in Avdiivka will be levelled with three-ton bombs in a similar way Israel is levelling Gaza right now’, said Sergey Mardan, a Russian state

Svitlana Morenets

Russia is trying to break through Ukraine’s front line before winter

Ukraine is on fire. Russian forces have launched an offensive across the entire front line in their final push before winter. About a hundred combat clashes took place yesterday, one of the most decisive of which is unfolding in Avdiivka. A suburb of occupied Donetsk, Avdiivka fell under the control of pro-Russian militants for three months back in 2014 before it was liberated. Now Avdiivka is under attack again, with Ukrainian soldiers trying to stop the largest offensive on the city since the onset of the war. Avdiivka has been semi-encircled by Russian forces from the north, east and south for months, with little change on the ground. In the

Mark Galeotti

Putin has been blindsided by the Israel attack

Inevitably, some have tried to suggest the terrorist invasion of Israel was in some ways orchestrated by Moscow. ‘Russia is interested in igniting a war in the Middle East so that a new source of pain and suffering will weaken world unity,’ said Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky in the aftermath of the attack. But if Russia was involved, why has its response been so weak and uncertain? In fact, the Kremlin seems near-paralysed by the unfolding conflict. Of course, Moscow hopes that this crisis will distract the West from Ukraine and undermine its ability to continue to fuel its war effort. It is also trying to spin useful narratives, such as

Has Soviet self-censorship come to Britain?

When the Soviet system fell in my native Estonia I was 17 years old. I’d spent the entirety of those years mastering the main rule for surviving the USSR: you needed two separate identities. One was for home and those you trusted, the other for public places: we knew that in front of outsiders or certain relatives, you simply didn’t speak about some topics. If you followed the rules and kept the two identities apart, you could survive and even prosper. But if you mixed the two worlds up, woe betide you. My grandparents – who’d separated in the early 1950s – led lives that illustrated this. My grandfather had

Lisa Haseldine

Juncker dismisses ‘corrupt’ Ukraine joining EU in near future

Just days after Ukraine’s President Zelensky declared his intention to start EU membership negotiations by the end of this year, the bloc’s former president Jean-Claude Juncker has poured cold water on the idea, branding it a country ‘corrupt at all levels of society’. In an interview with the South German regional Augsburger Allgemeine paper, Juncker accused current EU officials of making ‘false promises’ to Ukraine and ‘telling Ukrainians that they can become members immediately’.  The Ukrainian government admitted that only two of the seven EU membership conditions had been met ‘Despite its efforts, it is not eligible to join and needs massive internal reform,’ he said. ‘We have had bad experiences with

What happened to the Russia I loved?

I first came to Russia as a travelling English literature-lecturer in the late 1990s. This wasn’t a job given to me but one I’d devised myself, sending off snail-mail begging letters to different university departments all over the Former Soviet Union – Barnaul to Minsk – outlining my services and occasionally, weeks or months later, being taken up on the offer. With a rucksack full of books, I’d catch a train – sometimes a days-long journey – to the next destination, where I’d be given a list of students to teach, a guided tour of the city and three weeks in a student hall of residence. Here cockroaches could outnumber

Svitlana Morenets

Should Ukraine hold a general election next year?

In the months before Russia invaded Ukraine last year, Volodymyr Zelensky was fighting for his political life. The former comedian was elected in 2019 on a pledge to end the war in Donbas by an electorate exasperated with its political class. Zelensky initially set out to negotiate with Vladimir Putin – but achieved nothing. He appeared naive and out of his depth. However, Zelensky’s transformation into a wartime leader captured the world’s imagination and rallied his allies. Yet some of those allies are beginning to ask whether, if this war is really about the free world versus autocracy, as Zelensky claims, Ukraine should hold a general election next year. Many

Mark Galeotti

Ukraine’s Crimea strike is a warning shot to Putin

Admiral Viktor Sokolov, commander of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, appears to be Schrodinger’s admiral, alive according to Moscow, dead according to Kyiv, with no clarity as to who may be right. The real significance of the missile strike on his headquarters, though, is not so much whether it did kill him, but what it says about Ukrainian goals and capabilities. On Friday, Su-24M bombers of Ukraine’s 7th Tactical Aviation Brigade launched British-supplied storm shadow cruise missiles at the headquarters of the Black Sea Fleet in the Crimean port city of Sevastopol. Some were apparently jammed or shot down, but two slammed into the building, leaving it in flames. Kyiv hopes

Svitlana Morenets

Can Poland and Ukraine end their grain spat?

Poland has said it will no longer supply Ukraine with weapons, that it may cut aid to refugees and that it could restrict the import of a larger number of agricultural products. Polish president Andrzej Duda has compared Ukraine to a ‘drowning man’ capable of dragging his country ‘into the depths’. A month ahead of the Polish elections, it’s worrying language for Ukraine from a country that has, for so much of the war, been one of its staunchest allies. Ukraine needs Poland more than Poland needs Ukraine. Since the onset of the full-scale war, Poland has spent more than £2.5 billion to support Ukraine with weapons and financial aid, often prioritising

Poland’s relationship with Ukraine reaches breaking point

Poland is Ukraine’s best friend in Europe. But no alliance can ever be entirely unconditional, and this is as true of the Poland–Ukraine bond as of any other. Poland, which has supplied Ukraine with tanks and fighter jets since the start of the war with Russia, has now said it will stop supplying weapons. The reason for the fall out is one that has been simmering for months: Ukraine’s grain. Since Russia withdrew its Turkish-negotiated free pass for grain exported from Ukraine ports in July, Moscow has been targeting Ukraine’s grain infrastructure at Odesa and elsewhere. As a result, while some neutral vessels are still carrying export cargoes (a laden

Putin is resurrecting Russia’s ‘iron rogues’

A year before Russia launched its brutal campaign to subjugate Ukraine, I visited a wintry Moscow. It was striking to see how far the capital had moved away from celebrating the cult of the old communist leadership that had dominated the then Soviet Union with an iron fist. The tomb of Lenin by the Kremlin was, of course, still doing good business with tourists. But the bust of Joseph Stalin, standing on guard outside his old boss’s gaudy vault, resembled a forgotten relic. The sorry state of these statues was no accident. After the failed coup by Kremlin hardliners in August 1991, First Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev’s power drained away. As