Ukraine Unlocked is a weekly newsletter providing a roundup of the cultural, political, and economic developments in Ukraine. We are pulling back the curtain on this country in transition to provide students, professionals, and the casual reader with greater insight into the country.
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While the entire western world has quickly backed Ukraine during rising tensions with Russia, one country has been more hesitant to aid Ukraine. European- and economic- leader Germany has objected to the European Union’s military presence in Kyiv. Adding insult to injury, Germany sent only 5,000 military helmets to Ukraine after the country had originally requested 100,000. This led the mayor of Kyiv to call Germany’s approach to support for Ukraine a “joke.” Europe’s largest economy has a complicated relationship with Russia, making their support for Ukraine tepid at best.
Volatility at Borders and in Markets: Investors who had been ignoring the rising tensions in Eastern Europe paid more attention to them this past week. European stocks, American equities, and even cryptocurrencies all saw their valuations drop as month-long gains were erased.
Social Media Logo of "Belarusian Cyber Partisans." Credit: Belarusian Cyber Partisans Telegram channel
Keeping the Peace and Thwarting Attacks
US and NATO Standing Strong with Ukraine: On Wednesday, the US and NATO sent their formal responses to Russian demands. The letters addressed Russia’s call for Ukraine to never be allowed to join NATO. The US rejected this request but made promising remarks on other key issues that have not yet been disclosed. While neither side has published the details, Russian officials said that they are hopeful that this marks the beginning of a promising conversation.
Everybody, Please Stay Calm: President Zelensky said this week that he does not believe an invasion is imminent and that citizens should “sleep well.” A political analyst based in Kyiv said that the Kremlin hopes to disrupt internal stability in Ukraine and foment “hysteria and fear among Ukrainians.” Four embassies, including the US and Germany, have recalled families of diplomats or non-essential personal, which is not helping to soothe Ukrainians’ fears.
Flipping the Script on Cyber Attacks: A pro-democracy hacker group infiltrated Belarus’s rail network to disrupt the transport of Russian troops into Belarus. Russia and Belarus plan to conduct a military exercise in Belarus in February, but there are fears that it is a prelude to an invasion into Ukraine. The hackers promised to restore the network if the Belarusian government released 50 political prisoners and stopped the transport of Russian soldiers into Belarus.
New Release: Last Friday the Ukrainian film Stop-Zemlia debuted in Kyiv and at a select number of theaters around the world. The movie follows the life of Ukrainian teenager Masha as she navigates life as an adolescent. Kateryna Gornostai, also known for her documentary Euromaidan Rough Cut, directed the coming-of-age feature.
Critical Praise: The movie has been featured in numerous international film festivals and won the Crystal Bear award at the Berlin International Film Festival. Additionally, the movie has an 80% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Tragic Story: This is not the first time Ukrainian filmmakers have been in the news during the past year. You may recall the shocking story of actor Alec Baldwin fatally shooting Ukrainian cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of Rust.
Steps Towards Economic Integration
One Step at a Time: Prime Minister Shmyhal reported on Wednesday that Ukraine has fulfilled 63 percent of the requirements to achieve European Union (EU) membership. This is a nine percent increase from 2020 and a three percent increase from 2021. The PM noted substantial improvements in several key sectors—including taxation, public health, energy, transportation, and agriculture.
Financial Stimulus: The EU has agreed to send over 1.2 billion euros (1.3 billion dollars) to Ukraine. The EU commission highlighted the need to strengthen Ukraine’s economy to help boost their integration efforts and strengthen their economy in the face of potential conflict with Russia.
Ukrainian and German football players from the Nazi-ran league Credit: Duke University WordPress services
Your Weekly Dose of History
Mythicizing the Death Match: During the Nazi occupation of Kyiv from 1941-1943, the regime allowed the formation of Ukrainian sports clubs. Football (soccer) matches took place throughout the occupation, with Ukrainian, Hungarian, and German teams facing off against each other. At the end of 1943, the Nazis arrested and later executed several Ukrainian players for their connections to Soviet spy and resistance organizations. In the 1960s the Soviet Union re-framed the executions of the Ukrainians as a result of their victory over the German team. They called the last match in 1943 a “Death Match,” which served as a propaganda story for the Brezhnev regime. Soviet officials often sought ways to glorify citizens' heroic efforts under the Nazi occupation.
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