Blood spilled in a St. Petersburg cafe last weekend after a prominent pro-Kremlin blogger was killed by a hidden explosive, leading Moscow to point the finger at Kyiv for orchestrating the attack. The Pentagon pointed its own finger right back at Moscow after alleged top secret documents regarding Ukraine’s battle-readiness were leaked across social media. In the midst of the back-and-forth, Brazil made a call for peace, with its president saying Ukraine “can’t get everything it wants.” While the U.S. president has tried to welcome refugees from Ukraine, the path to making their new homes has not always been easy.
After Chinese president Xi Jingping and Russian President Vladimir Putin met last month, many worried the two countries would grow closer. But are American sanctions on Russia further driving the countries toward partnership?
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 Pentagon, home to the U.S. Department of Defense and likely where the leak of classfied documents stemmed from. Credit: Touch of Light via Flickr
Leak and Lula
Leaky Leaky: This past week top-secret U.S. military documents emerged on social media, giving a glimpse of what things look like on the battlefield in Ukraine. The leak showed where Ukrainian troops are stationed and what weapons are at their disposal. Analysts believe the documents are genuine but have been altered in some ways. Three U.S. officials told Reuters they believe Russia or pro-Russian groups were behind the leak. Luckily for the Ukrainians, the alleged documents did not include any battle plans for the long anticipated spring offensive.
Kyiv Denial: A Ukrainian intelligence official said that the documents were Russian forgeries, adding that the Kremlin’s most powerful weapon over the last few years has been Photoshop. The official believes fake documents are an attempt to delay the delivery of Western aid.
Lula Enters the Chat: Brazil’s left-wing president Lula da Silva wants peace in Europe. But how he wants to accomplish it is more controversial. Da Silva suggested last week that Ukraine could cede Crimea to Russia, saying “Zelenskyy can’t want everything.” Silva’s comments come on the back of his attempt to work with China to mediate an end to the war. Interestingly, one of Zelenskyy’s advisors said Kyiv would be open to discussing Crimea’s future if Ukrainian forces were able to push Russians back to the peninsula.
Envoy to Moscow: Da Silva also dispatched his top foreign affairs advisor, Celso Amorim, to Moscow. After the talks, Amorim gave a cryptic readout of the talks: “Saying that the doors to [negotiation] are open would be an exaggeration.” However, he added a caveat: “saying that they are totally closed is not true either.”
Zelenskyy shares an Iftar meal with Muslim troops to celebrate Ramadan.
Trinity Monastery in Chernihiv. Credit: Valerii Sorokin via Wikimedia Commons
Rebuilding and Reintroducing
Rebuilding the Arts: The U.N.’s cultural arm, UNESCO, has promised to rebuild Ukraine’s arts scene, backing the commitment with $10 million. UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay toured the country, seeing the destruction first hand throughout Ukraine. However, the $10 million is well short of UNESCO’s own estimate which predicts the total cost of rebuilding Ukraine’s cultural cites costing $6.9 billion. The first installment of funds will go towards restoring the historic Chernihiv, two hours north of Kyiv, as the city was at the center of intense fighting during the first weeks of the invasion.
Back to Ukrainian: Kyiv-based artist and illustrator, Zhenya Oliinyk, recently had her work “A Question of Language in Ukraine” published in The New Yorker. Through illustrations and text, she shows how Ukrainian has been repressed and the ways in which she has reintroduced the language back into her life. Zhenya’s work represents what many have called “a generational shift” towards speaking Ukrainian throughout the country.
Rendition of Russia's Mobile Intercontinental Ballistic Missile. Credit: Andrey Korchagin via Flickr
Waging an Endless War
Empty Threats: Kremlin officials are continuing their threats to deploy nuclear weapons to Belarus in response to NATO training and reconnaissance near Russian and Belarusian borders. Russia’s Defense Minister, Sergey Shoigu, said the West has escalated the war by providing Ukraine with military aid. However, the Institute for the Study of War emphasized that Russian talks of nuclear weapons are just attempts to slow Western aid before Ukraine’s anticipated spring counteroffensive.
NATO Neighbors: Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s Secretary General, reiterated that Ukraine would become a full member of the military alliance after it wins the war. To that end, Stoltenberg vowed that NATO member countries would support Ukraine indefinitely. However, Stoltenberg emphasized that repelling Russia is not the only barrier to entry: Ukraine must implement fundamental reforms to root out systemic corruption which has hampered the country for decades.
Newest Member: On Wednesday, one of Russia’s other neighbor’s, Finland, officially became the 31st NATO member. The other 30 member countries originally ratified Finland’s ascension protocol last July. The move effectively doubles NATO’s border with Russia.
Russian Blogger Assassinated: A well-known Russian military blogger, Vladlen Tatarsky (real name Maxim Fomen), was killed in an explosion at a café in St. Petersburg on April 2nd. He was part of a broader group of bloggers that have provided a running pro-Kremlin commentary on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Tatarsky had close ties to Yevgeny Prigozhin, the financier of the Wagner Group—Russia’s infamous paramilitary organization. One woman has been arrested in connection with the bombing but it is not known whether she received support from Ukraine or other countries.
Ukraine prepares for orthodox Easter, which is celebrated on Sunday, April 16.
United For Ukraine pen pals. Credit: Exchange Photos via Flickr
A Flawed System
Biden Refugee Program Troubles: The Biden administration’s refugee program, Uniting for Ukraine, has accepted over 280,000 Ukrainians since last April. The program, which mirrors Canada's, is sponsorship based where volunteers must sign financial support declarations. However, there is no additional oversight after the initial vetting process, leaving some to fall through the cracks.
A Nightmare Scenario: Stanislav Holotiuk, a 27-year-old Ukrainian, found a sponsor through Facebook for him and his girlfriend. He sent the stranger their information and within three days received immigration papers. However, the sponsor did not meet them when they arrived in New York. With only $100, the couple spent the first few weeks sleeping under a pier in Coney Island. They then used their money and bought a tent from Walmart. The couple lived near the park for months until they moved in with another Ukrainian they had met at the library.
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
The Flags of Russia and China. Credit: Mill.ru via Wikimedia Commons
Pivot to China: According to a University of California, Berkeley economist, the invasion of Ukraine will have long term negative consequences for Russia. The combination of sanctions and strained relations with the West will lead to a greater dependency on China. Russia has experienced a great deal of brain drain and has been disconnected from crucial developments in software engineering over the previous year. Kremlin officials will have to turn to China for access to the materials to replicate these changes, making Russia more like a “resource colony.”
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