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.
As Russia renews its assault on Ukraine, it may seem a bit presumptuous to wonder what the country may look like in a post-war future. Yet war is something that Ukraine has a history of adjusting to and confronting. Since 2014, Ukraine has been fighting Russian-backed separatists in the Donbas region. Ukrainians were certainly aware of the ongoing war within their borders, but the vast majority of people found ways to carry on with their lives, even in cities close to the fighting. While Russia’s current invasion poses a much larger existential threat to Ukraine, many will seek out normalcy. Leaders both in Ukraine and outside the country have also started to discuss how the nation will rebuild its economy, infrastructure, civil society, and culture. Ukrainian leaders will have billions of dollars of funding at their disposal, but they must determine the proper path forward. Zelenskyy has indicated that Israel could provide his country with a roadmap for development.
How will Ukraine navigate physically and culturally rebuilding itself… 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.
War damages in Mariupol Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Strategic Update – Week 8 of War
Pleas for Help in Mariupol: Defiant Ukrainian marines are still resisting in Mariupol, even after Kremlin officials called on them to surrender by this past Sunday or face death. The marine brigade is making its last stand in the Azovstal Steel plant. On Wednesday, Ukrainian battalion commander, Major Serhiy Volyna, made a video appeal to international leaders to rescue the soldiers and civilians from the plant. He said at least 500 wounded soldiers and another 1,000 civilians are taking refuge in the factory. Major Volnya underscored the severity of the situation: “We are probably facing our last days, if not hours. The enemy is outnumbering us 10 to 1.”
Nearly Captured: On Thursday, Zelenskyy announced that Russian forces were in control of most of Mariupol but that Ukrainian troops were still resisting.
Still Not Confirmed: While Ukraine has admitted that Mariupol is close to capture, Biden says the reports are still unconfirmed. However, if Mariupol falls, then Russia can concentrate their forces on eastern Ukraine.
Battle for the Donbas: On Monday, Russia initiated its offensive on eastern Ukraine for the “liberation of the Donetsk and Luhansk republics.” Russian and Ukrainian forces are fighting over several smaller cities within eastern Ukraine including Severodonetsk, Kreminna, and Izyum among others. Ukrainian troops are launching effective counterattacks, but there are reports of Russian forces gaining ground. In the fight for eastern Ukraine, a crucial factor will be Russia’s ability to overcome its previous logistical and strategic weaknesses that hampered its earlier offensives.
The Status of Russian Troops: American officials claim that Russian ground and air forces are only at 75% of their original capacity after seven weeks of fighting. Analysts thought that Russia would spend more time regrouping before the renewed offensive but now believe that Putin wants results by May 9th, which Russia celebrates as the “Day of Victory.” For Russians, this day marks the defeat of Nazis during World War II and is widely celebrated around the country. Putin’s claims of “denaztifying” Ukraine makes the holiday a natural occasion to highlight victories over their “neo-Nazi” foes.
Flexing their Muscles: Earlier this week, Putin announced that the Russian military successfully launched an intercontinental missile with nuclear capabilities. The Sarmat missile has been in development for years. These weapons have been under development for years but the timing of its completion heightens fears among Western military leaders. Putin said its arrival will “provide food for thought for those who, in the heat of frenzied aggressive rhetoric, try to threaten our country.” Putin’s threat is alarming, but the missile will likely serve as a symbol of technological achievement during the Victory Parade on May 9th to distract from their military woes in Ukraine.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Credit: Flickr
A Military of International Proportions
Germany Iced Out: One of the leading nations in Europe, and arguably the world, has taken on a more passive role in the current Russian-Ukraine war. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has recently defended his country’s refusal to send armored personal carriers and heavy weaponry to Ukraine. In Germany’s defense, they did send Stinger anti-tank missiles to support Ukraine back in February. Nonetheless, Germany’s tepid support for Ukraine has been a sore spot for the West.
Buy Me a Fighter Jet: An unidentified Ukrainian pilot is pleading with the wealthy elites of the world to fund the purchase of fighter jets. The campaign, Buy Me a Fighter Jet, is Tweeting at billionaires like Elon Musk and Bill Gates in hopes of securing financing for the planes. Fighter jets have been a contentious topic for Western nations, since supplying them could provoke Russia.
I am Done Talking: Former MSNBC analyst and Navy Veteran, Malcolm Nance has joined Ukraine’s International Legion of Territorial Defense. The 61-year-old tweeted “I am done talking” with a photo of him donning fatigues and the Ukrainian flag. Ukraine has benefited from a number of foreign fighters joining its ranks, but this may be the most high-profile recruit.
Venice Biennale Features Ukraine: The famous Venice Biennale exhibition will feature the wartime art of 40 Ukrainian artists. While the organizers of the exhibit are in Venice, the pieces share the experiences of Ukrainians who witnessed the war first-hand. Organizers of the exhibit printed the pieces from social media and arranged them in their own viewing plaza. The artwork has new importance this year, as it will assert Ukraine’s independent cultural identity separate from Russia.
Ukraine on Social Media:
YouTube Adventurer: Blogger and Ukrainian TV personality Anton Ptushkin normally travels to distant places and documents his journeys in Russian. While Ptushkin is from Kharkiv, his videos have received a large number of views from people in Russia. The online star recently put out a video in English talking about the impact of the war on his country. Russia banned the blogger from entering the country after he published numerous videos denouncing the invasion.
Music Rewind: YouTuber Bandsplaining recently put together a video featuring some of Ukraine’s lesser-known bands. The video showcases bands from different eras and various genres. Some of the groups have pretty outlandish names, including “Somali Yacht Club.” The bands offer a lesser-known avenue to engage with Ukrainian culture.
Insta Accounts: Interested in adding some Ukrainian heritage to your Instagram feed? Check out this New York Times Article featuring accounts focused on Ukrainian culture.
The war may cause food shortages in poorer countries. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Economics of War
Inflation Outlooks: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicts inflation will reach 7.7% in the U.S. and 5.3% in the European Union, with war being a major contributing factor.
Food Prices: A combination of sanctions and supply-chain issues will drive food prices even higher throughout the globe. The IMF warned that the “increases in food and fuel prices may also significantly increase the prospect of social unrest in poorer countries.”
How Much?! Before meeting with IMF representatives on Monday, Ukrainian officials projected that they would need $5 billion a month to pay for essential government services, such as healthcare and city utilities, and keep the broader economy afloat. Since the war started, Ukraine has lost half of its tax revenue. Caring for wounded soldiers and refugees has only exacerbated their budget issues.
The U.S. Sends More Assistance: Biden announced on Thursday that the U.S. would send another $800 million in military equipment to Ukraine, including ammunition, artillery, and drones. The Biden administration also pledged another $500 million in direct economic assistance. According to the President, the $13.6 billion humanitarian aid package Congress approved last month is “almost exhausted.”
Ukrainian refugee in Krakow Poland. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Refugee Crisis: Since February 24th, over 5 million Ukrainians have fled the country. To put it in perspective: that equates to 11% of the country’s population of 44 million. The number of refugees has exceeded original U.N. estimations of 4 million. In total, the war has displaced over 10 million Ukrainians.
Some Human Moments Prevail
Despite the tragic circumstances surrounding the war in Ukraine, videos shared over social media show that humanity still exists.