As the world turns its attention to the FIFA World Cup's Round of 16, Ukraine likely lost itsbid to host the games after leaders of the Ukrainian Football Association were arrested on embezzlement charges. Ukrainian soccer officials aren't the only ones facing justice, as the the E.U. is trying to establish an international court to hold Russia accountable for their war crimes. As temperatures continue to fall, Ukrainians are dealing with rolling blackouts due to Russia's targeted attacks on the electric grid. The unreliability of power in Ukraine has not deterred investors though, as the investment firm Flashpoint is planning to raise $75 million to fund the country's tech sector. While many Ukrainians have decided to brave the winter in their country, some have fled abroad but their skills are not always transferred to their new countries. In Bulgaria, a story emerged of a nurse apply to multiple hospitals but not being called back by any. This issue fits into a broader trend as a survey conducted back in the summer found that only 50% of Ukrainian refugees had found work.
All this and more in the below 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.
Putin and Biden talking during a 2021 virtual meeting. Credit: Wikimedia commons
Biden Feels Out Russia: On Thursday, President Biden said he would be willing to talk with President Putin about potential peace negotiations over Russia’s war in Ukraine. However, Biden said Russia’s removal of troops from Ukraine would be a precondition to negotiations. In response, Kremlin officials said they were open to diplomatic talks, but that other countries would have to recognize Russia’s rule over the illegally annexed territories in Ukraine. These demands likely mean any peace talks will not happen soon, as Western leaders refuse to meet Russia’s demands and do not appear to be pressuring Ukraine to negotiate with Russia.
World Cup Hopes Dashed: Andriy Pavelko and Yuri Zapisotsky, both leaders in Ukraine’s football association, were arrested on embezzlement charges this past week. The duo is accused of embezzling funds to construct an artificial grass factory. The allegations likely dash the hopes for Ukraine’s bid to host the 2030 FIFA World Cup. Ukraine, along with Spain and Portugal, had submitted a joint proposal to host the 2030 games. However, with Pavelko and Zapisotsky facing these charges, it is unlikely the bid will be successful.
E.U. Seeks Justice:European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen proposed in a video message that the European Union establish a U.N.-backed court to prosecute Russian war crimes. Von der Leyen said that the investigations would happen in conjunction with other probes that the International Criminal Court (ICC) is conducting. But Russia is not a party to the ICC and neither is Ukraine, making it tough for Kremlin officials to be held accountable in that court. The E.U. is hoping to seek justice through a “special independent international court based on a multilateral treaty or a specialized court integrated in a national justice system with international judges — a hybrid court.”
A soldier sends a heartfelt message to Ukrainian mothers.
One meme alluding to the lack of military support from the U.N. Credit: Coffee or Die Magazine
The Church of Memes
Memes Prevail:Since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine, memes have been a way for Ukrainians to inject humor into the situation. Ukrainians have created a variety of memes that make fun of Russia’s military failings, but also highlight the strength of Ukrainian people. Some people have even looked to the graphics as a source of news and information. The memes have allowed for Ukrainians to display both their artistic and dark sense of humor as they face some of the largest challenges of the 21st century.
Separation of Church: Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council has proposed banning Russian-affiliated religious groups. President Zelenskyy referenced the idea in his evening address on December 1st. Russia’s Orthodox Church influence reaches into Ukraine with its affiliate the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate. Ukraine’s security services have already conducted raids on Moscow-affiliated Ukrainian Churches where they found batches of Russian propaganda about the war. This discovery runs contrary to announcements from Church leadership that they would be cutting ties with Moscow. After Zelenskyy's announcement the Ukrainian parliament said it would draft legislation to enforce the new policy.
Destroyed residential building in Kyiv. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
The Winter of War
Bracing for More Attacks: Ukrainian officials are preparing for Russia to continue targeting critical energy infrastructure in the weeks to come. The deputy director of Ukraine’s military intelligence, Vadym Skibitsky, believes Russia has enough missile reserves to sustain the pace of attacks. The Pentagon is discussing the possibility of supplying Ukraine with Patriot air defense systems to help combat Russian attacks on energy infrastructure.
Outages Through March: Five large Russian missile attacks over the last six weeks have damaged 40% of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure. The destruction has translated to there being 27% less energy available throughout the country. DTEK, the country’s largest private energy supplier, has 14,000 employees working 24/7 to restore the grid. The company is attempting to schedule outages so citizens can adequately plan, but emergency cutoffs are a regular occurrence. Executives at DTEK believe service will be unreliable through March. Still, the grid is strong enough to survive the winter while allowing crews to conduct maintenance.
Say No to a Ceasefire: Frederick Kagan, a military analyst and director of the Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, published an article warning against a premature ceasefire in Ukraine. Kagan argues that Russian officials will disregard any compromise once their forces are recovered. Therefore, “success for Ukraine and the West lies in ensuring that Ukraine has secured territorial gains, military capabilities, and economic and reconstruction support while it is at or near its peak that are all great enough to deter a recovering Russia from restarting the war even as Ukraine’s power and Western support drop.” Kagan says that ending hostilities now will only allow a respite for Russia to renew its war in Ukraine in several years.
Human Moment: The Children’s Choir of Ukraine performed Shchedryk (the basis for Carol of the Bells) in New York’s Grand Central Station.
A street in Sofia, Bulgaria. Credit: Sami C via Flickr
The Shortcomings of Refugee Support
Bulgaria is Failing Ukrainians: Svitlana Denichenko, a trained nurse anesthetist from Ukraine, arrived in Bulgaria in February to continue her work as a nurse. She applied to every hospital in the city, but none ever reached out to her. Instead, she has had to work as a cleaner and assistant cook. Many Ukrainians with relevant medical training are struggling to find work in Bulgaria, even though the country has a shortage of medical professionals. Bulgaria does not have a proper system in place to transfer foreign qualifications, and officials are not in a hurry to improve the system.
Political Deadlock: Governmental debate currently centers around accommodation for refugees. The government plans to stop paying for hotels in November but said those who cannot afford to pay on their own would be moved to state accommodation. Bulgarian officials have decided that the refugee crisis is a short-term problem and only need to worry about accommodation. Therefore, doctors and engineers are working as waiters, meaning Bulgaria is not benefiting from the influx of highly skilled professionals.
Broader Issue: Bulgaria is not the only E.U. country where refugees struggle to find work. The problem is compounded by the fact that 90% of refugees are women and children whose partners and support systems are back in Ukraine. A survey conducted in Germany this summer found that only 50% of refugees had found work.
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
Bitcoin on Ukrainian Flag. Credit: Jernej Furman via Flickr
Funding Ukraine’s Economy
Tech Investment Fund: Flashpoint, an international technology investment firm, plans to raise $75 million to invest in Ukrainian technological companies. The firm currently manages six funds with a value of over $450 million. Flashpoint’s managing partner said he is negotiating with international financing institutions and the British government to help raise the money for the account.
Funding Ukraine: President Zelenskyy recently announced that Western allies would have to supply Ukraine with $38 billion in aid and another $17 million for rebuilding efforts in 2023 to ensure the country’s economy does not collapse. Ukraine has received $85 billion in assistance since February. Still, the Kyiv School of Economics argues that financing Ukraine’s economy will help speed up the war's outcome. Moreover, despite Western sanctions, Russia’s economy has performed better than Ukraine’s.
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.