Ukraine Unlocked

Hybrid War Hammers Ukraine

Politicians and mainstream media outlets are laser-focused on the possibility of a traditional full-scale Russian military invasion into Ukraine, but for now, cybersecurity attacks may be the most pressing issue for the Ukrainian government.
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Week of 2/11-2/18

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. 
This Week's Takeaway...

Politicians and mainstream media outlets are laser-focused on the possibility of a traditional full-scale Russian military invasion into Ukraine, but for now, cybersecurity attacks may be the most pressing issue for the Ukrainian government. On Tuesday, hackers spammed the websites of the Defense Ministry and two large banks, effectively disabling 10 websites. As part of the attack, numerous Ukrainian citizens received a barrage of texts saying that ATMs were unavailable. Ukrainian officials quickly announced that Russia likely backed the attack. This was a relatively low-level incident, but it is the second cyber security attack within the last month. Cyber attacks are part of the changing landscape in modern warfare tactics. Hybrid warfare, which combines traditional warfare tactics with unconventional methods, has defined the conflict in eastern Ukraine since 2014. Russia has continued to use the war in eastern Ukraine as a testing ground for their new military technologies…

Read Our Short Analysis Here
Biden addresses the conflict in Ukraine. Credit: CNN
 Biden is Speaking, So Who is Listening?
  • Out of the Shadow: In a rare public move for the 46th President, Biden delivered a speech on the current situation at the Ukrainian border. His remarks Tuesday shows that the conflict in Ukraine is top-of-mind for this administration. Here are a couple of key takeaways from the speech:
    • Are Russians Tuning In? In an unorthodox move, Biden appealed to Russian people saying, “You are not our enemy.” Biden even turned to a common Russian propaganda tool by invoking the glorious past of the Russian-American alliance that defeated the Nazis during the Second World War. It seems that the Russian people also want peace, as polling shows the war in Ukraine is deeply unpopular in the country.
    • Are Americans Scared? Biden also acknowledged the possibility of a Russian invasion negatively impacting Americans. An incursion could send gas prices even higher than they already are. For the Biden administration, inflation has been a major issue and increased prices at the pump will cast more doubts over his chances of reelection. He also added that the US will take precautionary measures to increase the domestic energy supply to help alleviate any potential international fuel shortages.
    • Give Diplomacy a Chance? Biden squeezed in the word “Diplomacy” eight times during his remarks. While he made his hopes clear that the issues between Russia and Ukraine’s western allies can be solved through diplomatic means, he reaffirmed that the United States will impose crippling sanctions on Russia if an invasion is launched. There has still been no mention of US troops being sent to Ukraine.
Destroyed Church in the Donbas. Credit: New Eastern Europe
The Fate of the Donbas is in Limbo
  • Putin Ponders Recognition: On Tuesday, the Russian parliament supported a resolution that calls for President Putin to formally recognize Donetsk and Luhansk as independent states. The two Russian-backed regions in eastern Ukraine have been fighting against the Ukrainian military for the past eight years. Russian intentions are still unclear, as military leaders said they were pulling back troops from the Ukrainian border. However, later that same day Putin baselessly claimed that there is an ongoing genocide against Russian-speakers in eastern Ukraine. These mixed signals have left both Ukrainian and NATO politicians waiting in an anxiety-filled purgatory. As of Wednesday, American officials said they could not confirm if Russia had started to remove troops from the border.
A scene from the film Rhino. Credit: Rhino/Deadline
Cultural Roundup
Ukraine’s culture continues to make a splash on the international scene. A couple stories caught our attention this week:
  • Rhino Coming to Netflix: The Ukrainian film Rhino is coming to Netflix this spring. The film debuted in Ukraine last fall and has been showcased at movie festivals around the world. It follows the life of a gangster during the turbulent ‘90s as he incurs unexpected twists associated with his violent life.
    • Far-Right Ties: The movie’s main actor Serhii Filiminov won best actor for his role in the film at the Stockholm International Film Festival. Yet Filiminov is a well-known leader in Ukraine’s far-right scene. The group he is associated with, Honor, often espouses white supremacist ideologies and has targeted various ethnic groups in the country.
    • Other Activist Roots: The director of the film, Oleh Sentsov, spent five years detained by Russian authorities for what many labeled “bogus” terrorist charges. He gained his freedom as part of a Ukrainian-Russian prisoner swap in 2019.
  • Travel Regrets: Ukraine selected the artist Alina Pash to represent the country and compete in the popular Eurovision concert, but she is being investigated for allegedly traveling to Crimea in 2015. After Russia annexed the peninsula in 2014 Ukrainians have been advised to avoid travel to the region. Even though Alina both sings about Ukraine in Ukrainian, many have now brought her national loyalty into question.
    • Past Troubles: This is not the first time Ukraine has struggled to get an artist to the Eurovision competition. In 2019, Ukraine selected the artist Maruv to attend Eurovision, but she refused to sign a contract that she claimed would have made her “a political mouthpiece." In the end Ukraine withdrew from the competition that year.
Train in western Ukraine near the Carpathian Mountains. Credit: Reddit
A Helping Hand and a Pretty Penny
  • Full Steam Ahead: Railroads are a critical part of Ukraine’s infrastructure, but the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 ravaged Ukraine’s state railway service as it reported a loss of more than 400 million dollars. Luckily, the railway service rebounded in 2021 and reported a net profit of more than 16 billion dollars. 2022 is off to a great start too, as the railway service reported a net profit of close to one million dollars in January.
  • German Love: Newly elected German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced on Monday in Kyiv that Germany would be issuing Ukraine a 170-million-dollar loan. Germany aims to help Ukraine achieve its goal of developing stronger ties with the European Union and solidify their sovereignty. Scholz noted that this loan is in addition to the money that the EU already committed to sending to Ukraine. The Chancellor followed up his visit to Kyiv by speaking with Putin. During the conversation Scholz demanded the removal of Russian troops from the Ukrainian border. Russia and Germany have a complicated relationship since Russia supplies Germany with most of its natural gas. If Russia invades Ukraine, there is a possibility that Germany will shut off the newly built Nord Stream 2 pipeline. But Scholz is hesitant to commit to such a drastic move, as a shutdown could cost Germany close to 45 million dollars.
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Signing of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. Credit: Deseret News
Your Weekly Dose of History
  • Peace at All Costs: The Bolsheviks came to power in Russia (with a tenuous control over Ukraine and other areas of the former Russian Empire) in October 1917. The new administration immediately sought to end their involvement in the ongoing war with Germany. They hoped to turn their attention to consolidating their control and warding off internal and external counter-revolutionary forces. The Bolsheviks and Germans quickly called for an armistice so they could begin peace negotiations. Disillusioned with the war, the Russian army disintegrated as soldiers returned home. The Bolshevik Central Committee appointed long-time party member Leon Trotsky as Commissar of Foreign Affairs and sent him to negotiate a permanent peace deal with Germany, but he tried to stall the negotiations for months. The Germans called Trotsky’s bluff and moved swiftly and easily into the heart of Russia. As part of the advance, they overthrew the Ukrainian Rada and set up a puppet leader. Fearing German occupation, the Bolsheviks panicked and voted to sign any peace treaty and accepted the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. The German conditions were harsh and included the annexation of most of modern-day Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Belarus, and Ukraine. The treaty was nullified when Germany lost the war, but it may have had lasting ramifications. One historian claimed that the treaty laid the foundation for the Cold War.
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