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Broken Ukraine

The Mess Isn’t All Russia's Fault

People take part in a funeral ceremony for Georgian Tomaz Sukhiashvili, 35, a member of self-defence battalion "Donbass", who was killed in the fighting in eastern Ukraine, at the Independence Square in central Kiev January 21, 2015. Gleb Garanich / Courtesy Reuters

Continued violence between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine is dashing hopes about last month’s Minsk II cease-fire agreement. February’s terrorist attacks in Kharkiv, Ukraine, and the continued threat of a separatist assault on the strategic port city of Mariupol suggest no real pause in violence anytime soon. But that might not be eastern Ukraine’s biggest problem: the region is now broken. The rise of an ungoverned, violent Donbass—which had a prewar population of six million—is likely to be one of the war’s most important lasting legacies. This grim reality is a problem that few in the West are ready to acknowledge, let alone confront.

VIOLENT CALCULATIONS

The human costs of fighting are obvious: at least 1.5 million people—one out of four residents—have fled the region. Over 6,000 people have been killed according to official numbers, but actual numbers are likely higher. Local infrastructure

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