"We are going to die." - A Journey Across War-Torn Ukraine

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Week of 2/25-3/4

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. 
This Week's Takeaway...
The barrage of news stories about the war can be overwhelming and it often misses the human element. Each individual’s experience is different but hearing someone’s story humanizes the conflict and reminds everyone that these are real people living and dying. Today’s analysis piece is an oral interview with Nikita Khomenko, who has lived in Kharkiv for the last 6 years. Philip (co-founder of Ukraine Unlocked) taught English in Kharkiv for 7 months and Nikita was one of his students and became a close friend. Nikita's harrowing experience during the first days of the Russian invasion is a tale of anxiety and uncertainty. “It just felt like you were in a constant state of anxiety waiting for something to happen. I felt helpless and kept thinking ‘I am going to die.'”
Read the full transcript of Nikita’ story here

A Request from Philip and Gabe (Co-Founders of Ukraine Unlocked): If you are enjoying this newsletter please consider forwarding it along to a friend, colleague, or neighbor. As the situation in Ukraine continues to evolve we are hoping to give folks the context they need to understand the various developments coming out of the country. 
Destroyed street in Kharkiv's city center. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
 Strategic Updates
  • First Major City Falls: On March 2nd, Russian forces seized control of Kherson, a strategic Black Sea port in southern Ukraine. The Ukrainian army is fiercely resisting, but Russian forces are making the most progress in the south. The Russian military can now turn their attention to Odesa. If they can capture Odesa, the third-largest city in the country, then Ukraine would be cut off from international cargo shipping.
  • Kharkiv and Kyiv Still Standing: Russian forces have been laying siege to the two biggest cities in Ukraine for almost a week, but both cities remain under Ukrainian control. Kharkiv’s city center has sustained major damage from artillery with at least 25 reported deaths in the last day. Russian troops were then spotted driving through the city on Thursday. The Russian military has bombarded Kyiv with artillery and ballistic missiles, but troops have not been able to enter the city. 
  • Guerilla Warfare: US officials warned that Russia could change its tactics because the war is not going as planned. Putin will likely turn to civilian targets and the ‘slow annihilation’ of Ukrainian forces. Intelligence reports indicate that Russian officials planned to defeat Ukraine within two or three days before Western countries could react.
    • Not According to Plan: Ukrainian forces have been waging an effective defense, giving Western countries enough time to enact devastating sanctions on Russia that have crippled their economy. Putin is losing popular support at home, but he cannot turn back now. Withdrawing from the war would hurt his strongman image in Russia, so he will keep marching forward.
  • Chornobyl 2.0: The largest nuclear power plant in Europe, Zaporizhzhia NPP, is on fire after Russian forces bombed it on Thursday. Plant administrators declared a nuclear threat and warned that an explosion would be 10 times larger than the 1986 Chornobyl disaster.
46th US President Joe Biden. Credit:Wikimedia
What is the State of the Global Union?
On Tuesday night President Biden delivered his State of the Union address to the American Congress. Senators and Representatives from both parties wore ribbons with the colors of the Ukrainian flag to show their ongoing support for the country. Remarks about the invasion dominated the president’s speech. Here are the key takeaways:
  • Troops are a No-Go: Biden reaffirmed his commitment that US troops would not be deployed to Ukraine to help repel the Russian invasion.
  • Funding Coming: The administration is requesting $10 billion from legislators in supplemental funding to support Ukraine. To put this number in context, this is ten times the size of support Ukraine got in all of 2021. The measure is likely to garner broad bipartisan support in Congress.
  • Suffering Ahead: Biden expressed his admiration for the Ukrainian people, describing them as a “wall of strength.” The president also emphasized that Americans may continue to see fuel prices rise as the conflict rages in Europe. 
Ukrainian Vyshyvanka pattern. Credit: Openclipart
Cultural Casualties of War
In one of our previous newsletters, we explored the work of Ukrainian folk artist Maria Prymachenko. Ukrainian officials reported earlier this week that 50 miles northwest of Kyiv, Russian attacks leveled the the Ivankiv Historical Cultural Museum. The museum estimates the attack destroyed at least 25 pieces of Prymachenko’s art, but the exact number is unknown. As the war rages, several global cultural institutions have moved to cut connections with Russia.
  • Severed Ties: The Venice Biennale, the Metropolitan Opera, and Eurovision all took steps to exclude Russian artists from their programming. The moves come as the world looks to isolate the country in every way possible from their role as a global influencer.
  • Ukrainian Art Show in Miami: If you find yourself in southern Florida, you will have a chance to see a pop-up exhibit at a small warehouse in the Allapattah neighborhood featuring Ukrainian artists. The wife-and-husband artist duo have been unable to return to Ukraine because of COVID and the ongoing war.   
  • Art Community Stands Up: In Kyiv, art museums are closing but finding clever ways to support the country as it battles the Russian invasion. Museums have turned from putting up exhibits to helping fund the Ukrainian military.
Wheat field in Ukraine. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Supply Chain Shortages
  • Wheat Woes: An agricultural economist at the University of Illinois predicted that there will be a global shortage of wheat due to Russia’s invasion. Ukraine is the second biggest exporter of wheat products and is home to tens of millions of acres of grain fields. Ukraine and Russia account for over a quarter of the world’s wheat production.
  • Economy in Dire Straits: The US and other NATO countries have levied numerous sanctions against Russia, with sanctions targeting over 70% of their banking assets. The Ruble lost over 25% of its value and the two major stock indexes plummeted by 20% before closing for the week. Some experts predict that Russia’s economy could shrink by 15% in 2022 because of the sanctions. There is growing antagonism to the war in Russia, and economic hardships are likely to galvanize the opposition.
Ukrainian refugee. Credit: Flickr
Humanitarian Crisis
  • A Mass Exodus: U.N. officials reported that over one million Ukrainians have fled the country over the past week. About half of the refugees have sought safety in Poland. Ukrainians have also escaped into Hungary, Moldova, Slovakia, and other European countries. The EU announced that Ukrainians can receive temporary protection and stay in one of the member countries for up to three years. 
  • Humanitarian Corridor: On Thursday, Russian and Ukrainian officials conducted a second round of negotiations that ended without a ceasefire. The sides only agreed to create humanitarian corridors to safely evacuate citizens, which includes the stipulation that Ukrainian officials can deliver medicine and food to war-torn areas. As the war rages on, citizens hiding in metro stations and basements will be in dire need of supplies.
Some Human Moments Prevail
Despite the tragic circumstances surrounding the war in Ukraine, videos shared over social media show that there is still humanity.
  • Ukrainians give out sex advice to their invaders.
  • Love dominates: Ukrainians still getting hitched.
  • Unconfirmed video of a captured Russian soldier being brought to tears when he calls his mom.

Want to Help Ukraine?
Looking to lend support to Ukraine, below are some ways you can help:
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. 

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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