Tom Mutch is a New Zealand-born, Ukraine-based freelance journalist with a special interest in crime and conflict. A former U.K. parliamentary researcher focusing on defense and security, he has more recently been on the ground covering the wars in Nagorno-Karabakh and Eastern Ukraine. His work has appeared in outlets including The Daily Beast, openDemocracy, Der Spiegel, POLITICO, the BBC, and Channel 4.
Latest from Tom Mutch
While neither side desperately needs an immediate military advance, both also deny the possibility of a negotiated peace any time soon. This will be a long, slow fight to the death until one side is exhausted.
Zelenskyy’s tone on the Donbas battles has darkened noticeably in recent days as Russia tries to press its advantage in armor and artillery before Western weapons systems arrive and there is a chance to turn the tide Ukraine’s way.
Many people have bloodshot eyes or skin discoloration and, in some cases, visible sores. “When we worked here our guidelines were to never spend more than half a day underground because it could make you sick,” said Nastya, a 23-year-old former train attendant who now works as a volunteer organizer. “Now there are people who haven’t left in nearly two months, and it is impossible to keep them all healthy.”
Ukrainians have made repeated attempts to get humanitarian aid inside the city, but Russian authorities haven’t let trucks with food or medicine pass through checkpoints. At the few shops that are open, people must wait in line for hours, and there are severe shortages of essentials like grain and canned food.
For many, this feels like a deep family betrayal, as if it is their siblings and cousins firing the shots. In some cases, it is.
While Russian assaults on the biggest cities of Kyiv and Kharkiv have dominated the news cycle, the southern campaign has received relatively less attention. When the Russians originally broke out from their base in occupied Crimea, they made comparatively quick gains. Unlike the makeshift and threadbare camps from which Russian soldiers advanced on Kyiv from Belarus, they had much better-developed bases, conditions and supply chains from Crimea.
They were both thin and gaunt, and Chadia looked as if she was seconds from fainting. “I have been waiting on the border with Sirak all this time after walking nearly 12 hours from Lviv.” They turned down all offers of food or supplies — the only thing either of them wanted was a blanket.
Conditions in the metro’s shelters are getting worse. People huddle on the floor with blankets, many with young children, others with cats, dogs and even a few pet rabbits. There is nothing in the way of insulation, and a cold draft blows toward everyone from the train tunnels. There is only a pair of squat toilets to share with any of the hundreds of people down here.
For Syrian Armenians, the apparent entry of their compatriots into the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict seems to confirm all their suspicions about the role of Turkey, which also supported rebel factions in Syria, and that the true purpose of helping Azerbaijan retake territory is Turkish irredentism.