F-16s From the U.S. & Peace Talks From China

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The Week of May 15th-22nd

This Week's Takeaway in 30 Seconds...
Seven-year-old Ukrainian boy standing in rubble of war. Credit: Manhhai via Flickr.
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At the G7 conference in Japan, the U.S. grew its role in combating Russia’s invasion with the announcement of a new F-16 fighter jet training program for Ukrainian pilots. Will the move help Ukraine or escalate the war? With Ukraine’s current tenuous hold on Bakhmut, any extra help could shape the war's outcome. China’s foreign minister is visiting Kyiv and Moscow to reinforce China’s desire to mediate a peace deal. Still, China may not be in a hurry to deliver a cease fire after securing access to one of Russia’s most significant trading ports. Back in Ukraine, a special branch of Ukraine’s armed forces operates in the gray war zones at night. How will their work shape the Ukrainian countryside for decades to come?
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.

Chinese Diplomat Li Hui who is leading talks with Russia and Ukraine. Credit: Presidential Executive Office of Russia via Wikimedia Commons
Talks and Transitions
  • China’s Attempt at Peace: China’s special envoy for Eurasian affairs, Li Hui, made a stop in Kyiv this week to meet with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba. The talks come after China proposed its own peace plan months ago, which at the time Zelenskyy seemed receptive to. Kuleba made it clear during this recent round of talks that Ukraine would “not accept any proposals that would involve the loss of its territories or the freezing of the conflict.” Hui made a public statement after his visit emphasizing that there would be no fast fix for the war. He heads to Moscow next to try and position China as a mediator between the two sides.
  • Polish Town Transformed by War: Near the border of Ukraine, the Polish city of Rzeszów has become the transit point for Western aid heading to the frontlines in Ukraine. NATO planes land at the now expanded airport, President Biden made a stop there during his trip to Ukraine, and nearly 30,000 refugees have made the city their permanent home. The city’s culture has quickly developed around its role as a transport hub, and will see even more changes after the war ends. The mayor has made it clear that Rzeszów will play a vital role in Ukraine’s rebuild.

 Human Moment:  

Soldiers and statues celebrate Vyshyvanka day in Ukraine.

A McDonald's location in Odessa, Ukraine. Credit: Adam Jones via Wikimedia Commons
Global and Local Symbols
  • A Safe Return for the Golden Arches: While several McDonalds in Kyiv have been open since September of last year, other locations around the country have remained closed. This week, two of McDonalds’ restaurants reopened in the eastern cities of Poltava and Kremenchuk. The move came after both locations developed safety procedures to quickly close the restaurants and allow staff to find a bomb shelter in the case of an attack. While McDonalds had been operating in Russia, the chain moved out of the country after the invasion and sold off its locations to Russian oligarch Alexander Govor, who is operating them under a new name, “Tasty and that’s it.” 
  • Vyshyvanka Day: This past Thursday, Ukrainians honored one of their most important and recognizable cultural symbols, the Vyshyvanka. Ukrainian Vyshyvankas are shirts that feature detailed colored embroidery woven in different patterns. The styles have emerged in modern, high fashion with Ukrainian designers taking aspects from the traditional garb and featuring it on clothing they created for New York fashion week. Today the shirts represent a symbol of a distinct Ukrainian culture, something the Kremlin has sought to discredit and destroy.
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F-16 fighter jet. Credit: Luhai Womng via Wikimedia Commons
The Wages of War
  • Opening the Gates: On Friday, President Biden announced during the G7 conference in Japan that the U.S. would help train Ukrainian pilots to operate F-16 fighter jets. Analysts believe the announcement could pave the way for sending fighter jets to Ukraine in the future. The U.S. has been reluctant to train the pilots, citing concerns that it would only escalate the war. Zelesnkyy has reassured Western leaders that any supplied-equipment would not be used to conduct attacks on Russian soil.
  • Bakhmut on the Edge: Russian forces, including members of the paramilitary organization the Wagner Group, have captured much of Bakhmut. However, Ukrainian officials said there are still several strongholds, and they are attempting to encircle the city. At the G7 conference, Zelenskyy said Bakhmut is not occupied and that "Russia will feel when we have a counter-offensive.” While Bakhmut is not strategically important, a victory for Russia would be a huge symbolic victory.

🥇 Human Moment: 🥇 

Ukraine takes home the gold medal at the European Rhythmic Gymnastics Championship. 

Ukrainian sapper preparing to detonate Russian bomb. Credit: manhhai via Flickr.

Roles Behind the Scenes

  • Working in the Gray Zone: After the sun sets, Ukrainian sapper, Andriy, straps two 20-pound mines to his torso and heads for the Russian trenches. Sappers are a division specializing in laying anti-tank mines in Russian-occupied military zones. It is a reliable defensive tactic that helps Ukrainian infantrymen defend their own lines. However, it is a perilous position. They must avoid stepping on Russian and Ukrainian mines, and work through Russian artillery barrages. Sappers have another growing fear: the growing grass will make it challenging to spot mines. Just like in WWI, these mines could remain underground for decades.
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
  • Donate to the Ukrainian military (will need google translate on your computer)
  • Donate to Ukrainian NGO Come Back Alive
  • Help Ukrainian refugees in Poland
Vladivostok Credit: Wikimedia Commons
The Spoils of War
  • Exploiting Isolation: China, leveraging its position as Russia’s most powerful ally, has gained unfettered access to Russia’s Pacific port of Vladivostok starting June 1st. The port, which was part of China until 1860, gives China’s northeastern provinces easy access to international trading routes. Russian-Chinese bilateral trade has increased by 40% over the first four months of 2023, and China’s new port access will only increase Russia’s dependency.
To help people pursue their passions about the Eurasian region we are collecting jobs that are connected to the area. If you have a relevant job you would like posted here please contact us. 
Entry Level  Mid-Career Senior Level 
Please feel free to contact us with any questions or comments you may have. We always look forward to engaging with our readers. 

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