The Balloon Phenomenon Floats to Ukraine

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The Week of February 13th - February 20th

This Week's Takeaway in 30 Seconds...
Ukrainian soldiers. Credit: Office of the President of Ukraine via United Nations University
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As we approach the one-year anniversary of Russia's invasion, The Globe and Mail featured 19 refugees who have fled their home due to the war. Refugees aren't the only one traversing borders, as Estonia's security service is warning that Russia is sending balloons over Ukraine's airspace. Ukraine may be able to call on a new ally in Israel to get help with shooting down the balloons, as its Foreign Minister announced the first package of aid since the war started. In the States, Chicago's Joffrey Ballet found itself embroiled in controversy after protestors staged demonstrations during the first night of Anna Karenina. Over in Ohio, war efforts are ramping to ensure timely delivery of the America's first tranche of tanks.
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.

Munich Security Conference logo. Credit: Wikipedia 
U.S. Leaders Stand Together
  • Bipartisan Support: In a rare show of bipartisan support from American legislators, Senate Republican and Democratic leadership visited the Munich Security Conference to back Ukraine. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) showed their support during the McCain Dissertation Award Dinner on Friday night. McConnell sought to reassure Western allies that Republicans were still major backers of Ukraine despite comments from far-right factions of the party. Schumer echoed this saying he was proud that “that the US Senate has approved $113 billion in military, economic, and humanitarian aid to Ukraine over the last year.” 
  • Israel Tiptoeing Towards Support: This past week Israel’s Foreign Minister, Eli Cohen, said that his country will bolster the amount of aid sent to Ukraine to help the country rebuild. While Israel has condemned the invasion, leaders have been hesitant to criticize Russia. Israel is well-aware of the large Jewish population in Russia and also the Kremlin’s garrison in Syria. This complicates Israel’s relationship with Russia, preventing them from developing a stronger relationship with Ukraine.

 Human Moment:  

The president of the European Commission received a gift from a town in western Ukraine. 

Berlin Film festival Credit: Siebbi via Wikimedia Commons
On The Big Screen
  • Berlin Film Festival Appearance: President Zelenskyy opened the Berlin Film Festival with a call for artists to take a stand against the Russian invasion. Zelenskyy questioned whether art can be outside of politics: “Can art be outside politics, can cinema be outside politics [when] there is a policy of aggression…when there is total war?” Sean Penn, who has been a major supporter of Ukraine and even visited Kyiv during the war, introduced Zelenskyy on stage before the video played. The crowd gave Zelenskyy a standing ovation at the conclusion of his speech. 
    • Penn’s Debut: Sean Penn also debuted his film Superpower during the festival, which documents Ukraine both before and during the war. Penn has been to Ukraine six times over the last year. The two-time academy award winner had started filming the movie before the invasion but drastically changed the direction of the plot after Russia invaded.  
  • Joffrey Ballet in Hot Water: In Chicago, members of the Ukrainian diaspora and its supporters protested the world renowned Joffrey Ballet’s production of Anna Karenina. Protestors said that it is wrong to show Russian culture on a major stage while the country wages a war on Ukraine. The Joffrey said that it stands with Ukraine, but stated, "Artistic adaptations of historical pieces of literature about our humanity have the transformative power to create a space for meaning, reflection and healing while allowing us to connect to our past, present, and future." We will keep an eye on how the rest of the run of show goes.
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A weather balloon similar to what Russia is launching. In the photo an Australian technician prepares to launch the weather balloon. Credit: NASA via Picryl
February Follies
  • America Isn’t the Only One with a Balloon Issue: The head of Estonia’s intelligence agency warned Ukrainian officials that Russia is sending unmanned meteorological balloons into Ukraine’s airspace to waste anti-aircraft ammunition. Russians are placing reflectors on the exterior so the balloons are visible to radars, tricking Ukraine's air defense into assessing the balloon as a legitimate threat. The balloons are much cheaper than the ammunition, plus the decoys reveal the location of anti-aircraft defense outposts.
  • Withering Away: U.K. Defense Secretary, Ben Wallace, claims that Russia has depleted its “equipment and manpower reserves necessary to sustain a successful large-scale offensive in eastern Ukraine.” Wallace said that Russia has already committed around 97% of its military, but the combat readiness of troops has decreased by 40%. The drop-off is likely due to Russia’s tactics of sending waves of soldiers into battle, reminiscent of the First World War.

  Human Moment: 
A soldier and her mother reunite

A small boat in Fredericton, Newfoundland. Credit: Product of Newfoundland via Flickr

Life, Upended: A Year in Review

  • Adapting and Overcoming: In anticipation of the one-year mark of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, The Globe and Mail collected the stories of 19 refugees whose lives were upended over the past year. We will highlight one, but please click the link and read over the other powerful stories that humanize the conflict and remind us of the millions of people who have suffered greatly over the last year.
    • Dreams Dying: Mahmoud, a 26-year-old medical student, the child of a Ukrainian mother and Egyptian father, arrived in Ukraine in 2014 to start university. He spent six years in school and was only months away from graduating. After Russia invaded, Mahmoud escaped to Poland using his Egyptian passport. After ten weeks in Poland, he moved to Newfoundland, Canada. But he discovered a problem: to practice medicine, he would need to complete a medical residency available only to citizens or permanent residents. However, you must start the residency within two years of finishing medical school. Still, it usually takes more than two years to become a permanent resident.
      • Rekindling Hope: With few options, Mahmoud found a job at the front desk of a hotel. He felt as though his hard work had slipped away, but the Atlantic Immigration Program gave him a glimmer of hope. The program allows employers to hire skilled refugees and fast-track their applications for residency. Mahmoud now works for a nursing home and hopes to become a permanent resident within a year, then finally start his medical residency.
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
  • Donate to the Ukrainian military (will need google translate on your computer)
  • Donate to Ukrainian NGO Come Back Alive
  • Help Ukrainian refugees in Poland
An Abrams tank turret moves through manufacturing at the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center in Lima, Ohio. Credit: Defense Visual Information Distribution Service
A Microcosm of Supplying the War
  • Small Ohio Town Refurbishes Tanks: In Lima, Ohio, the U.S. Army’s Joint Systems Manufacturing Center is crucial in the U.S.’s efforts to supply Ukraine. The plant will be refurbishing and upgrading the 31 Abrams tanks that the U.S. recently pledged to Ukraine. The military has not disclosed a timeline for sending the tanks but said the plant has the potential to boost its production from 15 to 33 armored vehicles per month.
    • Part of the Plan: Secretary of the Army, Christine Wormouth, toured the plant this past week and spoke to reporters afterward. She said that Russia’s invasion demonstrates the need to invest in the defense sector and that the Lima plant will be at the center of upgrades. The army has already committed $558 million in improvements over the next 15 years.
To help people pursue their passions about the Eurasian region we are collecting jobs that are connected to the area. If you have a relevant job you would like posted here please contact us. 
Entry Level  Mid-Career Senior Level 
Please feel free to contact us with any questions or comments you may have. We always look forward to engaging with our readers. 

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