February 24th marked the first anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Numerous demonstrations worldwide took place to show support for Ukraine after one year of fighting that has killed thousands, displaced millions, and destroyed billions of dollars of infrastructure. Seeing the anniversary as an opportunity to mediate, China released its 12-point peace treaty to end the war. Recently, Zelenskyy appeared on country starBrad Paisley’s latest single, “Same Here.” While Zelenskyy advocates for more support for Ukraine, Russian billionaires such as Yevgeny Prigozhin are still finding a way to evade sanctions and make millions of profits. Despite the oligarchs’ strong financial backing, Russia’s war effort has been dismal. With the pressure mounting, Putin announced this past week that Russia would suspend the last major nuclear reduction treaty. But does the threat carry weight?
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.
Demonstrators gather in downtown Chicago to show support for Ukraine during the one-year anniversary of the war. Credit: Gabe Pimsler
Toe Dipping Into New Spaces
Countries Commemorate One-Year: Around the world, countries are commemorating the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion into Ukraine. In Paris, the Eiffel Tower was lit up yellow and blue, while in Italy the Palazzo Madama was illuminated in the same colors. Even in Thailand and South Korea groups gathered to protest Russia’s invasion. In Chicago, which is home to the largest Ukrainian diaspora in the U.S., supporters gathered in Ukrainian Village and downtown to show their support for friends and family back home.
DeSantis Talks Ukraine: Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL), who many are expecting to announce his presidential run soon, is starting to discuss foreign policy. On a Monday appearance with Fox and Friends, Governor DeSantis criticized the Biden Administration's current approach to Ukraine, labeling it a “blank-check policy.” As the GOP presidential primary field starts to take shape, there will be diverging opinions on how aid should be provided to Ukraine in the future. Most American voters are not driven to the polls by foreign policy, but nonetheless it could serve as a differentiating factor among the candidates.
China Peace Plan: This past week, China put forth its 12-point peace plan for ending the war in Ukraine, which among other items outlines keeping nuclear facilities safe and establishing humanitarian corridors. For the West, any type of Chinese involvement is met with skepticism. But in Kyiv, Zelenskyy seemed to have an open mind towards the involvement from Beijing. Zelenskyy plans to meet with Chinese President Xi Jingping where the two will likely discuss this plan and a potential pathway to peace.
China’s Uncertain Stance: While China tries to strike a balance between remaining in good favor with both Russia and European countries, U.S. intelligence sources suggest that China is considering sending arms to Russia. The sources believe China is simply interested in the deal because of economic interests.
Buildings around the world lit up in Ukrainian colors on Friday.
One of the Banksy portraits in Irpin, Ukraine. Credit: Rasal Hague via Wikimedia Commons
All Kinds of Art
More on Banksy: Back in January, the famous artist Banksy visited Kyiv and painted four murals in the surrounding region. Now those pieces of art are being protected. Ajax Systems, a Ukrainian based international security company, installed shockproof glass and alarms on all four pieces. The move comes after somebody tried to steal one of the murals. Now the art will remain protected until they are moved into a museum. The undertaking costed nearly $14,000.
Stamps Too: To commemorate the one-year mark of the war, the Ukrainian government issued a stamp featuring one of the Bansky murals. The mural shows a little boy in a Judo uniform flipping a much larger man (Putin is a known practitioner of Judo). The stamp also includes the phrase in Ukrainian “FCK PTN.”
A New Tune For Ukraine: Country music star Brad Paisley recently debuted his new song, "Same Here." The song features an acoustic guitar and Paisley singing about common experiences shared across the world. At the end of the song, President Zelenskyy’s voice is heard as he talks with Paisley about the commonalities of people across the world. Since the war began, Zelenskyy has taken advantage of any opportunity to appear with celebrities to spread the message about Ukraine.
U.S. nuclear testing in 1954. Credit: International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons via Flickr
Suspending the Last Nuclear Treaty? On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia would suspend the second iteration Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START). The first iteration of START went into effect in 1994 and has been instrumental in reducing the number of nuclear weapon stockpiles for the U.S. and Russia. Putin said the Russian Ministry of Defense should be prepared to resume nuclear testing on his command.
Not So Fast: While many outlets framed it as a doomsday scenario, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) emphasized that it is not a complete withdrawal. They believe it is likely an attempt to discourage the West and Ukraine. Furthermore, nuclear rhetoric covers for Russia’s failures on the battlefield.
Revamping Goals: Oleksiy Hromov, the General of Ukraine’s armed forces, said in a news conference last week that Russian leaders aim to capture the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts by June. Ukrainian troops have held onto Bakhmut, a key city located in the Donetsk oblast, since August, despite brutal trench warfare. But keeping supply lines open for their soldiers is becoming increasingly tricky as Russia recently launched a new offensive. The West’s continued supply of ammunition will be crucial in helping Ukraine surmount Russian attacks in the spring.
Putin’s Position: According to the ISW, President Putin believes Russia’s war effort will outlast the West’s desire to support Ukraine. Information from a source inside the Kremlin “indicates that Putin is prepared for Russia to suffer through a costly and exhausting protracted war under the conviction that the war will tire out Western support.” Some politicians throughout Europe and the U.S., are already questioning the monetary backing their countries give Ukraine.
Ukrainian refugees in Moldova. Credit: UN Women/Aurel Obreja via via Flickr
One Year: Assessing the Refugee Numbers
The Continual Movement: According to the U.N., over 8 million Ukrainians have fled their home country over the last year, with roughly 1.5 million settling in Poland. Some refugees have attempted to move back home but most quickly flee again because of the danger brought on by war. The U.N. interviewed 17,000 refugees, most of whom were women, and determined that from October 2022 to February, over 20% of the individuals made at least one visit home. Those who returned usually were visiting relatives or getting documents.
The Permeable Border: In the case of Poland, many refugees will make regular short trips back into western Ukraine. Those who have decided to stay in Ukraine will often cross over into Poland for a day to go shopping and then return home.
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
Flag of the infamous Russian paramilitary organization, Wagner Group. Credit: Haisollokopas via Wikimedia Commons
Questioning the Effectiveness of Sanctions
Evading Sanctions: The Financial Timesrevealed that companies belonging to Yevgeny Prigozhin, the financer for the infamous Russian Paramilitary organization Wagner Group, have continued to earn millions of dollars in profits despite Western sanctions. For example, M Invest, which runs gold mines in Sudan, has been highly profitable and has evaded Western sanctions by changing its name. The report indicates how sanctions have been ineffective in stopping Russian oligarchs who help finance the war.
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