As the world tuned in to the World Cup Finale, FIFA rebuffed Zelenskyy's offer to deliver a message calling for world peace before the game started. Zelenskyy is trying to put international pressure on Putin through any means possible, especially as the cost of war continues to rise for Ukraine. There is growing fear within the country that if Russia continues to attack critical infrastructure, Ukraine could need $2 billion a month just to keep the country operating. Rumors that Russia may be starting a second offensive this winter are only further compounding these worries. While Ukraine addresses its immediate issues, European leaders are trying to address their long systemic reliance on Russian energy. A new underwater cable will link the caucus region and eastern Europe, providing Hungary and Romania with access to clean, off-shore wind.
All this and more in the below 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.
A man walks past a bombed out building in Irpin, Ukraine. Credit: Flickr
Pulling Out All The Stops
FIFA Rebuffs Zelenskyy: Ukrainian President Zelenskyy asked FIFA leadership if he could deliver a message calling for peace before the final match between Argentina and France. According to sources, FIFA rejected his request. FIFA has remained quiet on political issues, especially as the host country of Qatar has faced numerous criticisms over its human rights abuse.
Address Released: The Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine, Mykhailo Fedorov, released Zelenskyy's recorded speech on Twitter.
Russia’s War Cost: Russia is decimating Ukraine’s economy, leading to sky-rocketing costs for the country. In a doomsday scenario where Ukrainians flee the country and swap their Hryvnias for Euros, the entire currency could collapse. Numerous predictions have flown around, with the U.N. forecasting that poverty could grow tenfold and unemployment to climb beyond its current level of 30%. Current predictions are anticipating that Ukraine will need $2 billion a month from the West just to keep the country operating.
International Thoughts on Language: The right-leaning publication, National Review, recently posted an op-ed on Ukraine’s language laws. In the piece, author Michael Brendan Doughtery argues that Ukraine’s laws that are increasingly banning Russian in the country are archaic and anti-lberal. In the final sentence of the article, Dougherty says the U.S. should encourage Ukraine to abandon its pursuit of these laws. If the op-ed garners enough attention it may warrant a response from Ukraine.
Human Moment: Despite power outages, a concert in the Ukrainian city of Cherkasy went on.
The merchandise collaboration between Saint Javelin and the Kyiv Independent. Credit: Kyiv Independent
Protests & Collaborations
Russian Street Protest: Vladimir Ovchinnikov, a Russian pensioner, lives in a town just outside of Moscow. The street artist has used the walls of his town to paint murals that protest his country’s invasion of Ukraine. Each time Ovchinnikov paints a mural, the local police come and cover it up. For now, Ovchinnikov has only faced monetary penalties, but if his work gains more notoriety he could be facing jail time.
Merch Collaboration: Saint Javelin, the company responsible for creating the meme of the Virgin Mary holding a Javelin missile, and the news agency Kyiv Independent have come together for a merchandise collaboration. The Archangel Michael is at the center of the design, which is one of the main symbols of Kyiv. Profits from the sales will go to volunteer paramedics.
Trench line outside of Bakhmut in late November. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Back-line Barrage: On December 16th, Russia launched its seventh large-scale missile attack on civilian targets since October 10th. Russia launched 76 missiles, 60 of which Ukraine’s air defense systems destroyed. Several rockets hit targets in Kyiv and other cities throughout Ukraine, leaving many without electricity. The mayor of Kyiv reported water supply disruptions in addition to energy outages.
Dual Efforts: The Institute for the Study of War described Russia’s missile attacks as part of Putin’s as part of a two-pronged military strategy “to pursue his ultimate objective of regaining control of Ukraine and securing major territorial concessions.”
Part one is Russia’s military operations in the Donetsk Oblast as they attempt to capture Bakhmut. Putin has sent reinforcements to the city and is fighting a war of attrition to undermine Ukraine’s combat ability.
The second part of Russia's strategy is the bombing of civilian infrastructure. Both prongs have the same end goal in mind: force Ukraine to agree to a ceasefire, concede to Russia’s demands, or give Russia enough time to regroup its army.
Renewed Offensive? Ukrainian officials believe that Russia is training 200,000 new conscripts to launch a new offensive in January or February. Officials think the new offensive could include an attempt to capture Kyiv. Ukraine’s commander-in-chief reiterated the belief that Russia is seeking a way to pause the fighting so it can resupply its army and launch a fresh campaign during the winter. Kremlin officials have not commented on the prospect of a new offensive, but the fresh conscripts are undergoing a three-month training program.
Ukraine’s main Christmas tree in downtown Kyiv lights up yellow and blue.
International Monetary Fund (IMF) logo. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
How Can Europe Do More?
How Can Europe Further Help Refugees? With nearly five million refugees registered for temporary protection in the E.U., the International Monetary Fund (IMF) believes member countries can do more to help integrate refugees. IMF representatives believe the nations can implement three policies to protect their economies and to help prepare refugees for an eventual return to Ukraine.
Steps to Improve:
First: governments must tailor their labor market policies to enhance refugees’ skills and access to the labor market via language training and recognition of foreign education and qualifications.
Second: affordable childcare options to allow women, who comprise most of the refugees, to fully participate in the host countries’ labor markets.
Third: central governments must provide more funding to local governments who then can properly allocate funds for healthcare, education, or housing, depending on needs.
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
Government officials from Azerbaijan, Romania, Georgia, and Hungary sign the new agreement. Credit: Office of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan
Moving Past Russia: Romanian and Hungarian leaders signed an agreement with officials from Azerbaijan and Georgia to establish an underwater electricity cable, which could be a new fuel source for the European Union. The new connector will run between Azerbaijan and Hungary, passing through the Black Sea, Georgia, and Romania. Azerbaijan plans to supply Europe with energy from offshore wind farms. E.U. members are trying to move past their reliance on Russia, who supplied around 40% of Europe’s natural gas, a main source for heating the continent.
Framework for the Future: Romania’s President said the four-way agreement sets up a technical and financial framework for the expansion of the underwater electrical cable project. E.U. leaders hope this will diversify energy sources in the region and reinforce regional energy security.
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