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.
This Week's Takeaway...
Volodymyr Zelensky is frustrated with the Biden administration’s decision to evacuate US diplomats from Ukraine. The Ukrainian President believes that US policy makers’ actions are premature and come with consequences: Ukrainians’ fears are growing, and financial markets are rattled. He even took a shot at the US, saying that he cannot be grateful to the United States simply because they are the United States. But Zelensky’s main point of contention is over Biden’s use of the word “imminent” to describe the potential invasion of Ukraine. Upon closer inspection, this frustration may be a result of language translation. The lack of a comprehensive translation of the word “imminent” may be further dividing US and Ukrainian leaders.
Familiar Faces: AUK’s co-founder is Kurt Volker, former US Special Representative to Ukraine under the Trump Administration.
Past Controversy: You may remember Volker from the 2019 Trump impeachment proceedings. Volker resigned from his role as US Special Representative after Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, claimed that Volker asked him to talk to Ukrainian officials about digging up dirt on the Biden family. When Volker testified before Congress he denied any wrongdoing. Since testifying Volker has done pretty well for himself – he currently serves as a Distinguished Fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis and as an advisor at the DC lobbying firm BGR Group.
Presidents Zelensky and Erdogan walking together in Kyiv. Credit: Reuters
Ukraine: The Battleground for a Proxy War?
Erdogan Departs with Drone Deal: Turkey’s president, Tayyip Erdogan, visited Ukraine on Thursday in a show of support for the country. The two sides agreed to a new deal where Ukrainian factories can produce drones using Turkish supplies and technology. Erdogan’s regime has previously supplied drones to Ukraine, which have been used for the war in eastern Ukraine. The talks also included a guarantee from Erdogan that he would do everything in his power to mediate a deal between Russia and Ukraine.
Putin - US does not care about Ukraine: On Tuesday, Vladimir Putin said that Ukraine is simply an instrument in a conflict between the US/NATO and Russia. Putin perceives the US as an aggressor he must defend Russia against. He believes that the US cares only about containing Russia, and that “Ukraine itself is just an instrument to achieve this goal.” Putin contends that the US will try to draw Russia into a conflict or initiate sanctions to force Putin’s hand.
Biden Bracing for War: President Biden sent another 3,000 troops to Poland and Romania to try and prevent the conflict in Ukraine from spilling over into the rest of Europe. Biden conveyed to Putin that he will support and defend NATO allies as long as there is a large contingent of Russian troops at the Ukrainian border.
The largest version of the "Fountain of Exhaustion" by Pavlo Makov in Lviv in 2017 Credit: Ya Gallery
So What Does it Mean? Makov initially created the piece in 1995 when his home city of Kharkiv faced a water crisis. 25 years later the piece takes on new meaning for a viewer living in a world that is dealing with climate change, a pandemic, and an ongoing conflict between Russia and the West. Makov believes the meaning of the piece comes from the viewer, which could lead to endless possibilities for a piece that seems to showcase the hierarchies in society.
Exceeding Expectations and Strengthening Partnerships
Record-Breaking GDP: Ukraine’s GDP recorded a growth of 3% in 2021 and now commands an all-time high worth of over $195 billion. The Prime Minister also highlighted that real wages grew by over 6%. The IT sector, which has been one of the fastest-growing industries in Ukraine, reported a dramatic growth of $2 billion during the fiscal year. This is an exciting development for a country that struggled with COVID-related complications during the past two years.
Turkish Ties: Drones are not the only thing drawing Turkey and Ukraine closer together. Both the Ukrainian government and its citizens have a strong relationship with Turkey. Presidents Erdogan and Zelensky signed bilateral trade agreements on Thursday that pledged to increase their annual trade commerce by $3 billion over the next 5 years. This announcement followed a report that over 2 million Ukrainian tourists visited Turkey in 2021 despite concerns over COVID. Zelensky reported that this is an all-time high and that the number of Turkish citizens who visit Ukraine every year is also on the rise.
Drawing of Prince Volodymyr. Credit: Moscow Times
Your Weekly Dose of History
Eastern Europe’s Conversion to Orthodoxy: Kyivan Rus’, a powerful kingdom in the Middle Ages, is the historical ancestor of Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus. At the end of the 10th century C.E., Prince Volodymyr of Kyivan Rus’ decided to convert his kingdom from Paganism to a monotheistic religion. Muslim, Jewish, and two different sects of Christian representatives tried to convince him to adopt their religion, but he ultimately decided to adopt Byzantine Christianity for political reasons. The Byzantine Empire was the strongest entity in the region, and by accepting Christianity, Volodymyr would be able to marry into the Byzantine imperial family. This union instantly raised the power and prestige of Kyivan Rus’. To start converting his empire, a priest baptized Volodymyr in the Dnipro River and then baptized as many citizens as they could manage in a single day. The populous did not easily let go of their Pegan beliefs and the actual conversion to Orthodox Christianity took centuries. Nonetheless, one man’s decision made Christianity the most powerful religion in the Slavic world.
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