Corruption woes are continuing to plague Ukraine as security services searched the home of Ukrainian billionaire Ihor Kolomoisky in connection to a billion-dollar embezzlement scheme. Corruption scandals are damaging the country inside and out, as the E.U. continues to blame these issues for delaying Ukraine's membership. While Ukraine is being excluded from Europe’s international economic bloc, it's trying to revive its own economy by investing in small- and medium-sized enterprises. Ukraine hopes that a rebuilt economy will entice the millions of Ukrainians living abroad to return home after the war ends, but historical precedence is not in its favor. Turning to sports, Ukraine is seriously considering boycotting the Olympics if Russian and Belarusian athletes are allowed to compete, threatening to throw the games into a crisis.
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.
A blend of the European Union flag and the Ukrainian flag. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
E.U. Membership Still Far Off: EuropeanCommission President Ursula von der Leyen led a delegation of E.U. officials to Kyiv this past week as they promised more support for Ukraine. While von der Leyen said that Ukraine will be able to participate in certain E.U. programs, she did not suggest that Ukraine will be joining the E.U. anytime soon. Admitting a country that is in the middle of war would be nearly impossible as it would complicate and enlarge the role that Europe plays in defending one of its member nations. For now, the E.U. is telling Kyiv it needs to do more to root out corruption before it can be eligible for membership.
Europe’s Defense is Still Weak: Many thought that the E.U., not the U.S., would be leading the efforts to support Ukraine as it repelled Russia. So far though, the U.S. has been coordinating the West’s response and sending a larger amount of aide than its European counterparts. Furthermore, European countries have been slow to build up their own militaries despite the threat of war being so close. Part of the issue is that members of the E.U. have different opinions about how much and what aide should be sent to Ukraine. This was a central critique of the Trump administration: Europe was not spending enough money on its own defense.
A prosthetics center is opening up in Ukraine to help those who have lost limbs during the war.
The official logo of the Olympics. Credit: Public Domain Pictures
Boycotts & Performances
Ukraine Might Boycott: In last week’s newsletter, we discussed the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) decision to let Russian and Belarusian athletes compete in next year’s game. Ukraine’s Sports Minister, Vadym Guttsait, said that if this is the final decision then Ukraine may pull its athletes out of the games. The IOC is arguing that athletes should not be punished for the passport that they carry, but Western allies have been rallying around Ukraine with nearly 40 countries saying they support banning Russian athletes.
Finding a New Home: As Ukraine’s citizens fled abroad, so did its culture. At The Hague in the Netherlands, a mixed group of ballet dancers who had fled the country reassembled, creating an ad hoc troupe. The group has already gone on tour in Europe as well as Australia and Singapore, but now they head to the U.S. This week the ensemble will debut its rendition of Gisele at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C.
Ukrainian security services. Credit: Office of the President of Ukraine via Wikimedia Commons
Rooting Out Corruption: On Wednesday, the security service office executed a search warrant of Ukrainian billionaire Ihor Kolomoisky. The raid is part of a renewed anti-corruption initiative that began last week after Zelenskyy purged several cabinet members and regional governors. Following the search, security service officials released a statement saying they had discovered a one-billion-dollar embezzlement scheme involving oil companies Ukrnafta and Ukrtatnafta. Kolomoisky used to own large stakes in both companies.
Making a Statement: The raid came two days before Ukraine’s summit with E.U. representatives, leading to speculation that Zelenskyy is trying to prove Ukraine can effectively administer the billions of dollars in Western aid.
Deep Ties: Zelenskyy, a former actor, rose to prominence by starring in a sitcom on Kolomoisky’s television network. Their history made observers question whether Zelenskyy was too slow to act against Kolomoisky. However, he hopes this latest move shows people inside and outside the country that he is dedicated to eliminating corruption.
Impending Assault in Donetsk: On Thursday, Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense stated that Russia is planning a renewed offensive to capture both the Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts in eastern Ukraine. The announcement comes shortly after Russian forces claimed to be advancing toward the beleaguered city of Bakhmut, which has been a hotspot for fighting since August.
Half a Million Troops: The Minister of Defense also claimed that nearly 500,000 Russian soldiers have been mobilized on the border, which is nearly double the 300,000 soldiers the Kremlin claimed to mobilize in September. The Institute for the Study of War said that Russia continued to covertly conscript troops well into November.
A compilation of some of the best memes about the war in Ukraine.
Graphic for SMEs. Credit: Jernej Furman via Flickr
Reviving the Economy
Investing in the Future: Ukraine’s economic future lies in the health and growth of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Prior to Russia’s invasion, Ukraine experienced four years of strong GDP growth, with SMEs in the IT, wholesale, and retail sectors playing a vital role. The realities of the war have hampered many companies. As Ukrainian officials navigate fiscal challenges, it will be essential to support SMEs to fully revive Ukraine’s economy.
Existing Programs: Officials have already taken crucial steps to support SMEs. In July, the government launched a national recovery plan, which allocated a significant portion to SMEs so they can invest in themselves and their cities. On a local level, organizations like CSR Development Center have various target programs. For example, they support women looking to start or expand their own SMEs via training, financing, and networking.
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
Destroyed residential building in Kyiv. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
The Point of No Return
How Many Refugees Will Return? With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine approaching the one-year mark, it is becoming less likely that refugees will return home after the war ends. E.U. officials expect 2.5 to 3 million refugees to stay permanently in Europe, which they see as a positive development for European countries. The refugees tend to be highly educated and skilled and can quickly contribute to the their resident countries, which is much needed for a continent facing a demographic crisis.
A Crisis: The reality that millions of Ukrainians may not return home will be catastrophic for Ukraine. Even before the war, Ukraine had one of the world’s fastest shrinking populations.
Historical Precedence: In the 1990s, the Balkan Wars in Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Kosovo caused more than 4 million people to flee their homes. After the three-and-a-half-year conflict ended, only about 20% of the refugees returned home. Ukrainian officials hope to reverse this precedent and entice their citizens home through a robust rebuild of the country.
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