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.
🗞️Ukraine Unlocked in the News: 🗞️ Ukraine Unlocked co-founder Gabe sat down with Franklin and Marshall College's newly launched podcast to discuss his time in Ukraine and our newsletter. Listen to it here.
This Week's Takeaway...
On Friday, Ukrainian and Russian officials reached a deal that would allow for Ukrainian grain to once again flow from the Black Sea ports. Additionally, Russia will be allowed to ship its fertilizers abroad, which are crucial for global agricultural production. Since the war began, Russia has imposed a blockade on Ukrainian exports, hurting both Ukraine’s economy and the global food supply chain. Turkey and U.N. leadership helped to broker the deal, marking the first big compromise of the nearly six-month-long war. While the deal is a win for Ukraine and Russia and the countries that rely on their exports, the agreement is already facing its first hurdle with Russia’s rocket attack on Odesa coming less than twenty-four hours after the deal was signed. If Russia and Ukraine can stand by this deal, then Turkey also stands to benefit as many of the grain and fertilizer exports will pass through the Bosporus Strait, the Turkish-controlled passage in the middle of Istanbul that connects the Black Sea to the rest of the world. The agreement’s significance transcends the exports of grains: it could provide a preview of future negotiations between Russia and Ukraine.
What does the grain deal mean for all parties involved... read more here.
First Lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska. Credit: Le Monde
Making Visits in D.C.
Back at It Again: Last week we shared the story of Ukrainian-born U.S. Congresswoman Spartz’s (R-Indiana) accusing the Zelenskyy administration of corruption. This week Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley paid her a visit. The general was hoping to address the concerns of the Congresswoman and also explain how her comments could hurt the U.S.-Ukraine relationship. The meeting seemed to do very little to change her mind. After the visit, she accused one of Zelenskyy’s top aides of “creating a per se dictatorship under the guise of war.”
FLOU: The First Lady of Ukraine (FLOU) made a trip to the United States this week. She met with the Bidens as well as Speaker Pelosi. She also made the rounds with Members of Congress and administration officials such as Samantha Power, the USAID Administrator. Mrs. Zelenska used the visit to advocate for the continuation of U.S. funding and weapons to Ukraine.
Destroyed tram in Kharkiv. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Strategic Update – Five Months of War
More Civilian Targets: On Thursday, a Russian cluster missile hit a mosque, medical facility, shopping center, gym, and residential building in Kharkiv. The blasts left three dead and another 23 injured. According to the mayor, it is one of the most densely populated areas of the city.
Expanded War Aims: The attack came the day after Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, announced Russia had expanded its war aims beyond the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. He rebuked the U.S. and other western countries for supporting Ukraine and said, “The geography is different now. It is not only about the DNR and LNR…But also the Kherson region, the Zaporizhia region and a number of other territories.”
A Big Show? Despite Lavrov’s claims, the head of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) is convinced that Russian troops “are about to run out of steam” in eastern Ukraine because of logistical issues and a loss of soldiers. Richard Moore, Chief of MI6, noted that Russian gains in eastern Ukraine are slow, and by the time they capture a town, it is destroyed without any supplies left. In the same vein, Kyiv officials are optimistic that the U.S.-provided long-range HIMARS missiles will allow Ukrainian forces to launch an effective counterattack in the upcoming weeks.
The Meta History Museum of War. Credit: India Economic Times
The Arts Support Ukraine
More NFTs: The Meta History: Museum of War is releasing a third installation of non-fungible tokens (NFTs). Ukrainian artists create all of the pieces and the proceeds go towards the war efforts. Each NFT is also accompanied by a Tweet giving additional context to the inspiration for the art.
Pinchuk Reopens: One of the most famous contemporary art museums in Kyiv reopened this week. The Pinchuk Art Museum in downtown Kyiv welcomed visitors for the first time since the war began. The installation currently being featured is showing visitors the human costs associated with the ongoing war.
Art Adoption: A Ukrainian art showcase, originally displayed in Denmark before the outbreak of the war, has been unable to return to its home country because of the war. Instead, the art is going on tour throughout Europe. The curators of the exhibit are planning to have the art travel to all 27 E.U. member states, therefore giving them enough time for the war to end.
Concept Robot from a Tech Festival in Dnipro, Ukraine. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Economic Prospects in I.T.
Anxious I.T. Sector is Thriving, for Now: While Ukraine’s economy is expected to shrink by 30% this year, the I.T. sector is one of the few industries doing well. The 200,000 computer engineers and programmers diligently work from home, and the industry has experienced a revenue increase of over half a billion dollars. Companies worldwide have been supportive of flexible deadlines for various projects because of the war. Still, Ukrainian I.T. executives are worried that the sympathy will soon end, and companies will look for I.T. providers in different countries. Making matters worse, many executives cannot leave the country for in-person meetings to attract new clients and maintain existing relationships.
A Solution is Crucial: Finding a solution is essential, as according to the director of the Ukrainian-run Center for Economic Strategy, “These companies are getting paid in dollars and euros, and if we don’t have that, we won’t be able to pay for petrol for the army or for medication and our currency will depreciate and that will spur inflation…I.T. is crucial.”
Bucharest, Romania is serving as an inspiration for one young Ukrainian artist. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Inspiration in Romania: A 17-year-old art student from Kyiv, Kate, is finding inspiration for new interactive game projects as a refugee in Romania. Her experience fleeing the war and assimilating to a new country has made her value one thing in particular: connection. The war ripped her away from her home and classmates, and she felt extremely isolated in the months following her family’s move to Romania. Kate now aims to create interactive games that connect the people, places, and scenarios she has encountered on her journey. She has been filling her notebook with landscape drawings of Romania and character sketches of refugees she has met along the way.
Military-Age Men Look to Escape Ukraine: Shortly after Russia’s invasion, President Zelenskyy enacted a ban on men ages 18-60 from leaving the country for conscription purposes. However, many men are still looking for ways to leave the country, legally or illegally. Their options are limited: leaving through occupied Crimea, becoming a student at a foreign university, volunteering to drive a truck for humanitarian aid, or crossing on foot. Social media groups have formed to help men cross on foot or to obtain a fake medical deferment, for a fee of $1,000 to $2,000 dollars. It is unclear if the sites are legitimate.
Some Human Moments Prevail
Despite the tragic circumstances surrounding the war in Ukraine, videos shared over social media show that humanity still exists.
In a sign of solidarity, Kazakhstan lit up its embassy in the U.K. with blue and yellow.
Want to Help Ukraine?
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