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...
Leaders of NATO and Russia met on Wednesday to try and ease the growing tensions between the two sides. The talks come after Putin has continued sending troops and supplies to the Ukrainian border. The negotiations seemed to go nowhere as Russian diplomats demanded that NATO deny Ukraine future membership in the organization while also requiring that all NATO troops be removed from countries bordering Russia. While the sides seem to be far apart, they may still have a common goal: keep Ukraine out of NATO for the time being.
Democrats Win for Now: On Thursday the Senate brought Senator Cruz’s bill to the floor where it failed to receive enough votes for passage.
UN and Russian officials meeting. Credit: CNN
Pushing Back and a Different Political Point of View
Russia’s Point of View: Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov cited the expansion of NATO as their top foreign policy concern after discussions with NATO on Wednesday. The deputy stated that Russian officials would be satisfied if Ukraine agreed to implement the 2015 Minsk Agreements, which includes removing all foreign military presence and recognizing Donetsk and Luhansk as autonomous regions. Ideally, Russia wants a written agreement that Ukraine can never join NATO. Ryabkov said during his conference, “For us, it it’s absolutely mandatory to make sure that Ukraine never, never, ever becomes a member of NATO.”
Note to our readers: While we normally would not cite Russia Today, we think it is important to try and move beyond an American- and euro-centric point of view to show differing opinions.
Pushing Back Against Putin: While Russian troops continue to loom on Ukraine’s eastern border, demonstrators in Kyiv and Kharkiv came out in droves on Sunday to show support for protestors in Kazakhstan. Angry Kazakh citizens took the streets over a week ago in response to skyrocketing fuel costs and complaints about the iron-fisted regime. Kazakhstan’s government has killed hundreds of protestors and arrested thousands more. In response to the upheaval, Russia sent in over 2,0000 troops to stop the protests and return government control in key cites. Protestors in Ukraine see it as a move towards occupation, with one protestor saying that Putin “wants to rebuild the USSR by force.”
The work of Maria Prymachenko. Credit: The British Library
Picasso Bowed to Prymachenko
Ukraine celebrated the birthday of prominent folk artist Maria Prymachenko this week. Her colorful paintings captured the animal and floral parts of life in rural Ukraine. Prymachenko’s art toured around the world, including Paris where Pablo Picasso said, “I bow down before the artistic miracle of this brilliant Ukrainian” while labeling her an “artistic miracle.”
Walmart Pickup: While original pieces have sold at auctions for nearly $25k you can order a reprint of her art directly from Walmart for $49.99.
A highway in Ukraine. Credit: Travelblogeurope.com
Olympic-sized Aspirations: Ukraine is positioning itself to make a bid to host the winter Olympics within the next 15 years. Russia became the first country within the post-Soviet bloc to host the winter Olympics when the International Olympic Committee chose Sochi to host it in 2014. While Zelensky highlighted the potential economic benefits of hosting the Olympics, academics and policy experts were quick to point out that costs usually run over budget and can handicap weaker economies.
Improving Infrastructure: The goal of hosting the Olympics coincides with Zelensky’s new infrastructure project. The Zelensky administration has already initiated a program to upgrade thousands of miles of roads which are notorious for their potholes. The current administration believes that the upgraded infrastructure will be able to handle the logistical nightmare that comes with the winter Olympics.
Your Weekly Dose of History
Happy Old New Year! As you may remember from last week, the Russian Empire and then the nascent Bolshevik Regime used the Julian calendar up until February 1st, 1918. In January of 1918, the Bolsheviks announced that on February 1st the country would adopt the Gregorian calendar forcing a jump to February 14th. Therefore, January 14th is considered old New Year! Many countries in the post-Soviet bloc still informally observe the holiday. Families will still gather on January 13th or 14th to feast on traditional pork-based dishes and celebrate the end of the winter holiday season.
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