For many, food evokes emotions and memories. Ukrainian celebrity chef Ievgen Klopotenko is trying to capitalize on these feelings by rallying his country around borsch. Food isn’t the only area that Ukrainians are rallying around, as the battle for the eastern city of Bakhmut rages on. Reports indicate heavy Russian artillery strikes, but Kyiv is sending more soldiers to the front. On the diplomatic front, Russian Foreign Minister SergeyLavrov and U.S. Secretary of State AntonyBlinken had their first in-person meeting since the war started where America made a list of demands. While Russia and the U.S. navigate their own relationship, a music conservatory in Kyiv is trying to decide whether it should keep the Russian composer Tchaikovsky in its title.
Why does China care about this new controversy?
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.
The G20 logo for the meeting that took place in India. Credit: G20
Stepping to the Side
Lavrov Laughed At:During the G20 summit in India this past week, Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, sat down with a think tank to share Russia’s position on the war in Ukraine. In one exchange, he received applause after accusing the West of hypocrisy after it criticized Russia’s invasion while pointing out that the U.S. invaded Iraq and Afghanistan. But the crowd's reaction shifted when Lavrov said "The war, which we are trying to stop, which was launched against us using Ukrainian people.” The audience moaned and laughed at Lavrov’s statement causing the minister to stumble for a moment.
Lavrov and Blinken’s Quick Chat: Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, had their first face-to-face meeting since the war started. The discussion lasted less than 20 minutes, but a number of points were stressed according to Blinken. The first was urging Russia to rejoin the START Treaty, a nuclear arms control agreement, which Putin announced Russia would be suspending. The second concerned Paul Whelan, the U.S. Marine Russia has been detaining since 2018. Finally, Blinken said the U.S. would support Ukraine working with Russia to find a diplomatic solution to end the war.
The Tchaikovsky University in Kyiv. Credit: Nick Grapsy via Wikimedia Commons
Renaming Key Places
Food as a Rallying Cry: Ievgen Klopotenko, a TV celebrity chef in Ukraine, is rallying his fellow Ukranians around their cultural cuisine. Klopotenko helped lead the efforts to have UNESCO designate borsch as a protected cultural item. But he is also trying to return the dish to its pre-soviet roots. He claims that the dish had far more taste and appeal before Russia exerted its influence over the soup.
Book Release: If you are interested in purchasing Klopotenko’s forthcoming book on Ukrainian cooking, you can pre-order it here.
What’s in a Name? The Tchaikovsky National Music Academy of Ukraine, located in Kyiv, is facing a dilemma. Students of the university are demanding that Russian composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s name be dropped from the school’s title. Faculty at the university are pushing back, stating the composer’s family had Ukrainian roots. Another factor that might be in play is the school’s sister location in China. For China, the name Tchaikovsky is associated with prestige in the musical arts and a renaming may hamper student enrollment.
Iranian drone exercise in 2022. Credit: Farsnews via Wikimedia Commons
Invasion Springs Forward
Imminent Withdrawal? On Thursday, Ukraine’s armed forces said that troops could withdraw from Bakhmut, but only if it is strategically necessary. Russian troops have been trying to capture the city since August, but Ukraine’s defenses have held. The Institute for the Study of War said that Ukraine’s defensive operation is still sound, forcing Russia to expend soldiers and ammunition on costly attacks.
Attacks Intensify: On Friday, Russia intensified artillery strikes on access roads leading out of Bakhmut. Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of Russia’s infamous paramilitary organization, Wagner Group, tried to claim the city was almost surrounded and that Zelenksyy should order a retreat. However, Reuters reported that more Ukrainian soldiers were heading to the front line, signaling that Ukraine does not plan to surrender the city.
Drone Deal Prolonging War: Russia and Iran have agreed to build a drone factory inside Russia that could prolong the invasion and raise the death toll. While NATO officials do not believe it will deliver victories for Russia, the new factory could help Russian forces destroy civilian infrastructure in Ukraine. NATO countries already have numerous sanctions levied against Iran and Russia, but one anonymous Eastern European official admitted there is a limit to their effectiveness in stopping the flow of goods from Iran to Russia.
A new food delivery method emerges on the front lines.
Art gallery in National Museum in Warsaw. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Art Therapy: In Warsaw, Sofia Riabchuk, a museum professional from Kyiv, has started a program for fellow refugees so they can process their emotions and reflect. Several times a month, Riabchuk gathers a group of refugees around a painting and facilitates a discussion to help the participants open up to others. The refugees are encouraged to give their interpretations and share their emotional reaction to the art. Riabchuk reminds them that there is no wrong answer.
Thematic Talks: The discussions follow a theme, such as fear, sadness, or joy. Members often have drastic interpretations of the pieces, which Riabchuk sees as reflecting the refugees’ internal struggles.
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
Invasion Hampers Egypt’s Economy: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had sweeping economic effects worldwide, especially for countries who bring in grains from Ukraine. Egypt is the world’s biggest wheat importer and has struggled to cope with the loss of Ukrainian grain products. Egypt faced financial issues before the invasion due to government mismanagement, but the war exacerbated the issues. In January, inflation topped 26.5 percent, the highest in five years. The effects in Egypt are just one example of how deeply Ukraine is intertwined with the global economy.
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