Zelenskyy visits liberated territories in Kharkiv in September during Ukraine's first counteroffensive. Credit: Office of the President of Ukraine via Wikimedia Commons.
After months of anticipation, Ukraine launched its expected counteroffensive to recapture its territory, including Crimea. The shape of the campaign is becoming clear, but what role will Western-supplied weaponry play?
As Ukraine’s blitz ramped up, an explosion destroyed a massive dam in southern Ukraine that has displaced thousands. The International Red Cross’ slow response to the crisis prompted President Zelenskyy to levy a sharp critique against the organization and the international community. Despite the criticism from the Ukrainian president, the U.S. is doubling-down to support Ukraine on all fronts, including a multi-million dollar package to shore up Ukraine’s cyber security defenses. Beefed up cyber security will be protecting those who chose to stay in Ukraine, including the artists featured in a new film which debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival.
All this and more in this week's newsletter!
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.
One of the former venues for the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. Credit: Beyond My Ken via Wikimedia Commons
Some Stayed, Some Left
The Artists Who Stayed: Last week at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City, Ukrainian-American director David Gutnik debuted his film Rule of Two Walls. The documentary explores the impact the war has had on artists in Ukraine, specifically focusing on those who chose not to leave the country. The film also turned inward, interviewing its own crew as part of the feature. As Ukraine continues to assert its unique cultural identity separate from Russia, Gutnik’s film shows the individuals who are fighting to maintain it.
Church News:The Russian Orthodox Church announced that they had helped to facilitate a transfer of Ukrainian prisoners-of-war to Hungary. The soldiers are of Hungarian descent and the move followed a request submitted by Budapest. The current leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, has been known to be a close ally of Putin. Supposedly, this deal happened without any consultation with Kyiv. In areas of western Ukraine, there are several enclaves of ethnic Hungarians who hold Ukrainian citizenship. Ukraine estimates there are more than 400 Hungarian-Ukrainians currently serving in its military.
Guy casually bikes past a Ukrainian rocket being launched.
An International Red Cross Committee truck. Credit: daliluk via pixabay
Zelenskyy Goes after Red Cross:President Zelenskyy slammed the slow response from international organizations in the wake of the flooding from the Kakhovka dam breach. He said during his nightly address, “We need international organizations, such as the International Committee on Red Cross, to immediately join the rescue operation and help the people in the occupied part of Kherson region. Each person that dies there is a verdict on the existing international architecture and international organizations that have forgotten how to save lives. If there is no international organization in the area of this disaster now, it means it does not exist at all and that it is incapable of functioning.” Zelenskyy has attacked the Red Cross in the past, going after them for its inaction surrounding the deportation of Ukrainian children and protection of Ukrainian POWs.
Make a Case: The International Court of Justice (ICJ) which arbitrates disputes between two countries (not to be confused with the International Criminal Court (ICC) which prosecutes individuals), heard its first case surrounding the MH17 flight that was shot down by pro-Russian separatists in 2014. Ukraine is arguing that Moscow violated the U.N.’s anti-terroism treaty by supplying the separatists with arms. The court has no enforcement power so the proceedings are mostly symbolic.
Rendition of a German Leopard tank fighting in Ukraine. Credit:Pixabay
The Wait is Over
The Thrust of the Counteroffensive: This past week, Ukraine launched its long-awaited counteroffensive to recapture large swaths of occupied territory. Analysts believe that the Zelenskyy administration aims to retake Crimea and other parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions that have been under Russian control since 2014. Details are still emerging, but Ukrainian troops are fighting on three principal axes: east toward Bakhmut and Luhansk, southeast toward Mariupol, and south into Zaporizhia toward Melitopol. If Ukraine can recapture Melitipol, they can launch rockets across the Black Sea and destroy the Kirch bridge connecting Crimea to mainland Russia.
Western Weaponry: The Zelesnkyy administration spent the last six months lobbying Western officials for more advanced weaponry to sustain the campaign. The supplies are finally seeing action, with the German Leopard tanks making their way onto the battlefield.
Nuclear Plant Goes Cold: On Friday, Ukraine’s nuclear agency said it shut down the last operating reactor at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, the largest in Europe. While there is no direct threat to the plant, officials decided to stop all nuclear reactions because of the breach in the Kakhovka dam and the destruction of power lines from nearby fighting.
Human Moment: Poland sends heavy equipment to Ukraine to help with areas impacted by flooding.
Kakhova Dam in southern Ukraine. Credit: Demin Vadim via Wikimedia Commons
Humanitarian and Ecological Disaster
Dam Breach:On Tuesday, an explosion destroyed part of the Kakhova dam in southern Ukraine, causing widespread flooding that has killed at least five people. Another 13 Ukrainians are still missing. Water levels in the reservoir are dropping around three feet a day, with the flooding expected to continue for at least another week before the water levels stabilize. Satellite images show before and after images of the affected areas, with many houses now underwater.
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
Logo of the Ukrainian Cyber Alliance, a renowned hacktivist group. Credit: Informnapalm via Wikimedia Commns
The Undercurrents of the Economy
Cyber Leads the Way: Russia’s invasion has been multi-faceted, with attacks on land, air, and technological infrastructure. While cyber-attacks have not played a decisive role in the war, experts estimate Russia will conduct nearly 5,000 cyber attacks against Ukraine in 2023. Recognizing the importance, U.S. officials announced they will provide Ukraine with another $37 million in cybersecurity assistance. Since 2022, the U.S. has pledged $82 million to Ukraine to support its ability to detect and deter cyber threats.
Total War Economy: With Russia’s military efforts stalling, Kremlin officials have had to ramp up the production of military goods by offering substantial loans to arms manufacturers to sustain their invasion. The two-pronged issue of sanctions and emphasis on military goods is leading to complaints among Russia’s citizens. Sanctions have forced Russian manufacturers to produce lower-quality substitute goods to replace their Western counterparts. Now the increased emphasis on military goods will likely further diminish the quality of everyday goods, causing further discontent at home.
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