David Patrikarakos is an author and journalist. His latest book is War in 140 characters: how social media is reshaping conflict in the 21st century.
He begins his article with these words:
Winter shivers. Snow smothers the ground. A collection of tents, slowly collapsing, forms an army camp distinguished only by several sagging Ukrainian flags: splashes of blue and yellow amid a canvas of almost unrelenting white. It’s winter 2014, on the battlefields of eastern Ukraine, and I am in the forests outside the occupied cities with the Ukrainian army as it faces off against “separatists” backed by Russian forces.
The growl of shelling is constant; sandbags are piled high, rigid with ice. The only warmth comes from the iron heater in the centre of my tent, which is pitched between a broken-down truck and a couple of vans. Sasha, my Ukrainian army liaison, sits drinking tea. I ask him how long he thinks this will last. He looks around. He cocks an ear to the low throb of artillery. “Maybe a long time,” he replies. “But we won’t surrender.”
Seven years on, Russia is massing troops on Ukraine’s border once again. Some 110,000 soldiers have moved in — the largest military build-up there since 2014 — and they have all the logistical support required to support an invasion; field hospitals have already been set up. On Saturday, Moscow sent two warships through the Bosphorus; it reportedly plans to send more from its Caspian and Baltic fleets to bolster its presence in the Black Sea. Russia is flexing its military muscles – very publicly.
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Seven years on, the war continues. Credit: Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty