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.
Protestors around the world who have come out in support of Ukraine have rallied around the phrase: “Save Lives, NATO Close the Skies.” Many have joined in making these demands, but for some it is unclear what exactly it means to “close the skies.” The request has made its way to the political stage, as Ukrainian President Zelenskyy has been pleading with western leaders to shut down the skies over his country. But what are the implications of this move and why have other countries largely rejected this proposal? In short, a closure of Ukraine’s skies would essentially drag NATO countries into the Russian-Ukrainian war and mean the start of a continent-wide conflict not seen since WWII.
A Request from Philip and Gabe (Co-Founders of Ukraine Unlocked): If you are enjoying this newsletter please consider forwarding it along to a friend, colleague, or neighbor. As the situation in Ukraine continues to evolve we are hoping to give folks the context they need to understand the various developments coming out of the country.
Woman cries as paramedics perform CPR on teenage girl in Mariupol. Credit: Ukraine Invasion on Flickr
Strategic Update – Week 2 of War
Misery in Mariupol: Russian forces bombed a maternity hospital in Mariupol and wounded at least 17 people that included pregnant women and children. Russian troops have been surrounding Mariupol since March 5th, with an estimated 300,000 citizens trapped in the city without electricity, food supplies, or cell service. Ukrainian officials contend that the Russian military continues to attack civilians as they try to leave through humanitarian corridors.
Killing Kharkiv: Russian artillery has decimated Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city. Videos depict destroyed buildings and debris littering the streets. More than 600,000 residents have fled the city since the start of the war, which is half the city's population. Ukrainian forces made some progress in the Kharkiv region when they regained control of the city of Dergachi, located 7 miles northwest of Kharkiv. Despite attempts by Russian forces to take the city of Kharkiv, it still remains under Ukrainian control.
Chornobyl Goes Dark: On Wednesday, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister announced that power had been cut to the Chornobyl power plant. He claimed that this would lead to a nuclear disaster and demanded an immediate ceasefire. International atomic energy experts calmed fears when they said no immediate danger existed.
What’s the Deal? Chornobyl is no longer an active energy plant, but spent uranium fuel rods are stored in cooling pools at the facility. Administrators feared that the rods would boil all the water off without power and start a fire within days. But experts underscored that the 20-year-old Uranium already has a significantly lower temperature, and in the worst-case scenario, it would take months for all the water to boil away.
Ukraine with European Union flag. Credit: Wikimedia
EU Snap Foo: Several EU member states have called on the Union to review Ukraine’s request to become a member state. While powerful countries in the bloc, such as Germany, have shunned the idea, several nations want to ensure that Ukraine will have a chance to join the Union. The motives for this remain unclear. Many of the nations that support Ukraine joining the Union are further east, lending credence to the notion that these countries want Ukraine as a buffer between themselves and Russia.
Supply Chains Pushed to the Brink: According to Moody’s Analytics, the most significant risk to global supply chains has shifted from the COVID-19 pandemic to the Russian-Ukrainian war. Ukraine is a major exporter of neon, an essential gas needed for computer chips. If the war drags on, computers could become more expensive or scarce.
Some Ukrainian Film. Credit: Wikimedia
Social Media During Times of War
Social Sharing: Like any other major global event, social media has been the primary conduit for sharing information about the Russian-Ukrainian War. The dissemination of news and information can happen quickly, but often at the cost of accuracy. Russian social media accounts have sought to exploit this void of quality information by providing Ukrainians with propaganda and misinformation. The ethics surrounding social media are ever-present in our society but require further scrutiny when you are watching unconfirmed videos of innocent citizens being killed on your Tik-Tok feed.
The Last Dance: In Russia, one of the last independent TV news agencies, TV Rain, recently ceased operations due to increasing pressure from Kremlin regulators. In their final airing, they played Tchaikovsky’s ballet “Swan Lake.” The move is a nod to when Soviet state TV played the same performance during the failed coup of Mikhail Gorbachev that precipitated the fall of the Soviet Union.
Film Archive: Ukraine has a rich film history dating back to the Soviet Union. Numerous films have emerged from Ukraine over the years that seek to vividly depict life in the “Bread-Basket of Europe.” Check out these nine films to learn more about the fabric that makes up the country.
McDonald's in Russia. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
International Aid: The International Monetary Fund approved a $1.4 billion loan to help stabilize Ukraine’s economy and stave off an economic recession. The new loan will help Ukraine rebuild and grow the economy if and when the war ends. The IMF’s announcement came days after the World Bank announced a $700 million loan for essential services in Ukraine. The IMF plans to approve a $3 million loan for Ukraine in the next several months and procure additional funding for countries accepting refugees.
Goodbye Russia: McDonald’s and Starbucks announced the closure of all locations in Russia following the invasion of Ukraine. Coca-Cola and Pepsi also announced the cessation of soda sales in Russia. They join a growing list of international companies, from BP to Adidas, that have stopped doing business in protest of Russia’s invasion. McDonald’s intends to pay all 62,000 of its employees during the closure. Some business franchises will continue to operate, but this will affect average Russians who have grown accustomed to Western chains since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Record-Shattering Gas Prices: Oil prices are skyrocketing because of sanctions levied against Russia. Forecasters expect oil prices to reach $150 per barrel, which translates into about $5 per gallon of gasoline.
Polish volunteer hands out water to Ukrainian refugees. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
A Mass Exodus: Over 2.3 million Ukrainians have fled the country since Russia invaded on February 24th. Almost half have fled into Poland over the last two weeks. EU officials believe that the number could rise to 7 million, which would rival the number of refugees that fled Syria. The flight of so many citizens is likely to exacerbate the already low birth-rates in Ukraine.
Some Human Moments Prevail
Despite the tragic circumstances surrounding the war in Ukraine, videos shared over social media show that humanity still exists.
Ukrainians turn an abandoned Russian tank into a port-a-potty.