Ukraine Unlocked is a weekly newsletter providing a roundup of the cultural, political, and economic developments in the country. We hope to provide students, professionals, and the casual reader with greater insight into Ukraine as its role on the global stage evolves throughout the 21st century.
Among the many things Russia has destroyed during its invasion of Ukraine have been cultural sites, landmarks, and artifacts. Many Ukrainians feel that Russia is trying to erase any evidence that demonstrates Ukraine’s distinct identity from its neighbor. While the loss of life has been the paramount concern for President Zelenskyy and his administration, in a post-war Ukraine one must consider how the country will rebuild the various institutions representing its rich heritage. In doing so, Ukrainians will need to disentangle and reexamine the multiple bonds that link themselves with Russia. As a society, choices will need to be made about ways to accurately portray its historically close ties with Russia while preserving the unique cultural pieces that make the country distinct.
How can Ukraine reestablish itself while acknowledging its past…read more here.
A Request from Philip and Gabe (Co-Founders of Ukraine Unlocked): If you are enjoying this newsletter please consider forwarding it along to a friend, colleague, or neighbor. As the situation in Ukraine continues to evolve we are hoping to give folks the context they need to understand the various developments coming out of the country.
Buildings in Severodonestk. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Strategic Update – Week 13 of War
Russia Gains Control of Severodonetsk: On Wednesday, the Luhansk Regional Governor reported that Russia controlled over 70 % of the city of Severodonetsk and most of its critical infrastructure. Russian troops have tried to encircle and blockade the city as they did in Mariupol but have been unable to completely cut off the city. Russian forces have consistently shelled the city for days and have turned off the water, electricity, and natural gas.
Critical Juncture: Severodonetsk is an important strategic and symbolic goal for the Russian military because it would give the Kremlin control over large areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. President Zelesnkyy said that Severodonetsk is “at the epicenter of the confrontation.” While not explicitly mentioning Severodonetsk, U.S. military officials reported that the next several weeks are critical for the eventual outcome of the war.
U.S. Supplies Precision Missiles: President Biden agreed to send a $700 million weapons package to Ukraine, including the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS). U.S. officials said the weapons systems are crucial for repelling Russian missile attacks.
Torture in Kherson: Reports of Russian officials torturing Ukrainian civilians who speak out against the occupation are emerging out of Kremlin-run Kherson. One doctor who eventually fled recalled patients with deep bruising, broken bones, and burns on their feet and genitalia. The doctor underscored that many people probably did not seek treatment out of fear. One Kherson resident reported that Russian troops put a bag over his head and “threatened that I would not have kidneys left” before brutally beating him.
Meeting between Russian President Putin and Serbian President Vucic. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Who is Supporting Whom?
Odd One Out: While much of Europe has supported Ukraine either through military aid or economic sanctions, a handful of countries in the continent remain as outliers. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic announced that he had reached a deal with Russia to supply his country with natural gas for the next three years. Serbia continues to build its relationship with Russia, despite claims that it is working toward joining the E.U. Serbia is one of the few European countries that has still not officially condemned the invasion of Ukraine.
Hungary Too: Hungary has been the most tepid member of the E.U. when it comes to supporting Ukraine. The E.U. gave Hungary a nearly complete exemption from the organization’s ban on Russian gas imports. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban appeared to celebrate the exception for his country in a Facebook post saying, “An agreement was reached. Hungary is exempt from the oil embargo!"
Turkish Peace Process: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan offered to host peace negotiations in his country and act as a mediator for officials from Kyiv and Moscow. Erdogan has been trying to play a strategic role in this conflict by offering to serve as an independent observer in the war. Yet he is playing to both sides by helping export Ukrainian grain but also blocking Finland and Sweden from joining NATO. Turkey’s lack of a clear stance on the conflict has left many wondering what the country’s true motivations are as it takes on larger responsibilities.
Past Eurovision Trophy. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
For the Greater Good
Trophy Auction: Kalush Orchestra, who won the coveted Eurovision contest this year, decided to auction off their trophy. The crystal microphone was sold on Facebook marketplace to Crypto Firm WhiteBit. The group raised around $900,000 dollars, which will be used to help the Ukrainian military purchase drones as part of the war effort.
Gallery Premiere: In Georgia’s capital of Tbilisi, the city hosted its first-ever gallery weekend from May 28th-30th. Thirteen commercial galleries will featured pieces created by Ukrainian artists as part of their series entitled War Diaries. The art was available for sale, with proceeds going to help aid efforts in Ukraine. Ana Riaboshenko, the art director at Tbilisi Art Center, started the project. Her motivation to do so was clear: “For most Georgians this war is our war as well, due to our complicated history and present situation with Russia. Therefore, the first thing I felt was an urgency to do something [to support Ukraine], as did most of my friends in Georgia.”
Defying the Odds: Ukraine's national soccer team beat Scotland on Wednesday 3-1, keeping the hope alive that they may qualify for the upcoming World Cup in Qatar this winter. If they beat Wales on Sunday, Ukraine will qualify for Europe's last remaining ticket to the games.
Moment of Unity: Before the game began, both Scottish and Ukrainian fans cheered at the end of the Ukrainian national anthem. Ukrainian players broke down in tears in the pregame press conference as they described the dire situations back home.
Tech Resiliency in Ukraine. Credit: Deepstrat
IT Sector Thriving: Ukraine’s IT sector, an integral part of its pre-war economy, is still growing despite Russia’s war. In the first quarter, the tech industry reported $2 billion in revenue, up 25% from previous years. Tech employees across Ukraine, even those seeking shelter in war-torn areas, have been able to continue their work despite the circumstances.
Challenges and Changes: The overall growth of the sector can be a little misleading, as 2% of Ukrainian IT companies have closed since the beginning of March. Small IT companies comprise most of the closures, but large companies such as Intellias and Genesis are thriving and opening new offices and positions in western Ukraine. The number of open IT positions in Ukraine is projected to double due to the growth.
Lombardy, Italy which is now home to many Ukrainian refugees. Credit: Pixabay
Seized Mafia Dwellings House Refugees: The Italian government possesses over 40,000 properties that used to belong to the mafia. Six hundred and sixty-two of these properties in the Lombardy region have become available to the 116,000 Ukrainian refugees that fled to Italy.
Some Human Moments Prevail
Despite the tragic circumstances surrounding the war in Ukraine, videos shared over social media show that humanity still exists.
Kyiv looks to return to normal with a packed downtown on a warm spring night.
A Ukrainian refugee reunited with her dog after they were separated following her move to the United States.
Want to Help Ukraine?
Looking to lend support to Ukraine, below are some ways you can help:
Help forPEACE, which seeks to connect foreign donations with on-the-ground organizations in Ukraine