Two executives of Motor Sich, a Ukrainian aviation company, face criminal charges after security officials allege they sold engine parts for attack helicopters to Russia. While Ukraine builds its case, U.N. officials are using satellite images to track which cultural sites Russia has damaged during the war. Russia’s invasion has impacted Ukraine and its people in numerous ways, but individuals with disabilities are struggling to meet basic needs. While Ukrainians are struggling to cope with the realities of the war, the government is trying to prepare for the future through a recently-established investment portfolio. Back in the U.S., a group of congressional representatives are facing backlash for a leaked letter advocating for the Biden administration to facilitate negotiations with Russia. Any talks seem unlikely, especially when Putin continues to spread false claims about Ukraine’s plans for a “dirty bomb.” In the same speech, Putin backed down from threats of Russia using nuclear weapons, saying it did not make political or strategic sense. While nuclear weapons may be off the table, weaponizing food isn't, as Russia backed out of the U.N.-brokered grain deal in the Black Sea.
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.
OSCE workers talking with a Ukrainian with a disability. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
The Hidden Victims of War
Finding Housing during War with Disabilities: There are roughly 2.7 million people with disabilities in Ukraine, thousands of whom have fled their homes because of Russia’s invasion. The U.N. announced that Russia’s war has had a disproportionate effect on individuals with disabilities. Finding adequate and affordable accommodation is an uphill battle for those fleeing to western Ukraine. However, for those with disabilities, it is almost impossible. One Ukrainian, Vitalii, spent five months trying to find an apartment that could suit his needs. He described the challenge: “Accessible housing is a burning issue even if you’re ready to pay a lot of money.”
Inaccessible Bomb Shelters: For the lucky ones who do find housing, they are faced with yet another obstacle: many bomb shelters do not have wheelchair ramps. Vitali said that he does not even respond to the sirens anymore, because by the time he reaches the shelter, the alert is over.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington, Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Credit: Rep. Jayapal's Office
Big Ol Messup
The Democratic Debacle:A liberal wing of the U.S. Democratic party published a letter urging a reassessment of the country’s approach to the ongoing war in Ukraine. In the letter, the group calls for an “proactive diplomatic push, redoubling efforts to seek a realistic framework for a cease fire” to be paired with the historic level of aid Ukraine has received. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) spearheaded the letter which reportedly was written this summer but just got released this week.
Backlash:Members of the Democratic party were quick to critique the letter. Rep. Auchincloss (D-MA) said that this provided a “olive branch to a war criminal.” The Biden administration said they appreciated the point of view of the members, but that all decisions would include the Ukrainian government.
Retracted:Within a day, the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the group who originally released the letter, retracted it. Rep. Jayapal said “The letter was drafted several months ago, but unfortunately was released by staff without vetting.” On Twitter, people ripped the Congresswoman for blaming her staff and not taking responsibility. Meanwhile, other members who had signed on to the letter tried to distance themselves from it like Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) who serves on the January 6th Committee.
Getting Greener: According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the war in Ukraine will speed up the world’s transition to renewable energy. The IEA alleges that the decrease in fossil fuel exports from Russia have forced governments around the world to reassess where they get their energy from. With regards to Russia, the IEA believes that the country will never regain its position as the world’s largest exporter of fossil fuels.
Arnold Schwarzenneger met with the Ukrainian band Kalush, posing in the group’s famous pink hat.
Film cover for the movie Klondike which will be Ukraine's submission to the Oscars. Credit: Klondike
Art at Any Cost
Film Festival in a Bunker:The Ukrainian National Film Critics Circle held its annual festival on Thursday of last week, albeit in a slightly different location. This year’s event took place underground in a Kyiv bunker retrofitted for the festival. The film Klondike, which follows an expecting couple in eastern Ukraine after flight MH17 crashes in their neighborhood, will be submitted to the Oscars’ international Feature Film Category.
Tech to Protect:The U.N. is using satellite imagery to track the damage Russia has inflicted on Ukrainian cultural sites. When the U.N. is alerted to a potentially damaged site, they purchase high-quality satellite images from Airbus and Maxar Technologies. These pictures allow analysts to assess the amount of damage inflicted and when it might have taken place. An initial list found that Russian attacks have affected 207 sites. Unsurprisingly, the areas of the country with the most damage are eastern Ukraine and the regions surrounding the capital, Kyiv.
Supplying Russia: Ukrainian officials arrested two top executives from Motor Sich, a 115-year-old company that predates the USSR and produces high-end plane and helicopter engines. Security officials in Kyiv allege that the company’s president and financial officer conspired with Kremlin officials to send valuable engine parts used in three different Russian attack helicopters. The executives had third-party entities throughout Europe, the Middle East, and Asia place orders for the parts. After receiving the equipment, the intermediaries shipped them to Russia. Security officials published audio recordings where Motor Sich’s president discusses successfully sending equipment to Russia without any issues.
Russia Backs Out of Grain Deal: On Saturday, Russia indefinitely ended its participation in the grain deal that Russia, Turkey, and the U.N. signed back in July. Russia cited an attack on its Black Sea fleet as its main reason. The other three parties in the deal pledged to continue the deal and 16 vessels are slated to leave today. Officials in Kyiv described the attacks as a staged, false-pretext to pull out of the deal. Western officials and President Zelenskyy said Russia is weaponizing food scarcity to blackmail the world. Wheat prices are expected to rise by five percent today following Russia's announcement.
Nuclear Negligence: On Thursday, President Putin delivered a speech to a Moscow-based think-tank where he seemingly backed down from the threat of nuclear weapons. Putin said he never mentioned the possibility of using nuclear weapons in the war, and that a nuclear attack would not make sense militarily or politically. Back in September, Putin said he would use “all means” available to defend the Ukrainian territories that Russia illegally annexed.
Fishing for a False Flag: During the same speech, Russia’s president repeated unfounded claims that Ukraine’s military plans to detonate a dirty bomb that spreads nuclear radiation. Ukrainian officials have repeatedly dismissed the claims and warned that it is part of the Kremlin’s extensive misinformation campaign “aimed at creating a pretext for false-flag operation."
Poking the Lion: A Kremlin official, Konstantin Vorontsov, warned the U.N. that the U.S. and its allies were using their equipment in space to reinforce their power and that "quasi-civilian infrastructure may be a legitimate target for a retaliatory strike." A representative for the U.S.’s National Security Council made it clear that any attack on American infrastructure would be met with a swift response.
🖌️ Human Moment: 🖌️
A soldier on the front turns his trench into a masterpiece.
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
E.U. flag that overlays a map of Ukraine. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
The Future is Bright
Lucrative Investment Portfolio: Ukraine’s Prime Minister, Denys Shmyhal, announced the creation of a broad economic investment portfolio that is estimated to have a value of $400 billion. The fund, aimed at attracting international companies, has over 500 different opportunities and spans 10 sectors. The PM reiterated that Ukraine’s government has doubled its privatization efforts while minimizing military risks for prospective investors.
Future E.U. Member? The prospect of investment in Ukraine grows by the week as Western officials encourage companies to help rebuild the country. Germany’s Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, said at an economic forum in Berlin that “Whoever invests in the reconstruction of Ukraine today invests in a future EU member state that will be part of our community of law and our internal market.” Scholz described the project as the 21st-century Marshall Plan. However, the Chancellor added a caveat: Ukraine’s government needs to implement a framework for transparency and rooting out systemic corruption that has long plagued the post-Soviet country.
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