ISBN: 9781316511497

Pavel K Baev


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The tenth anniversary of the attack on the Ukrainian city Slovyansk by a band of Russian mercenaries led by a former intelligence officer Strelkov in April 2014 may be an appropriate moment to review the book that examines the complex character of the violent conflict in Donbas. The warlord now resides in a Russian prison under his real name Igor Girkin, and the book also changed the not entirely agreeable subtitle ’Civil War and Russian Intervention’ after the initial print. The key argument Arel & Driscoll sought to advance indeed was that the chaotic struggle for power in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions after the Maidan revolution in Kyiv in February 2014 was driven by local agendas, while ’Russia was responsive and opportunistic’ (p. 19). The problem with this argument is that by even at the time of publication, the authors were reluctant either to stand by it or to admit that it was proven wrong. They insisted that ’reclaiming the language of civil war’ remained analytically useful, while on the book’s jacket, they declared that the Russian description of the conflict as civil war ’flies in the face of evidence’. A reader informed by the wisdom of hindsight will find the application of theories of civil war to the Donbas case academically rigorous and thoroughly researched and nevertheless seriously misleading. The suggestion that the Western stakeholders in the Minsk process should have taken into due consideration the agency of ’insurgents’ from the present quasi-republics at best falls flat. At worst, Areal & Driscoll leave their readers pondering how their evidence-based analysis fits the goals of Russian information warfare.