Ukraine in Focus

Svitlana Moronets.

Feb 10

Portrait of the week in Ukraine

  • Russia launched another wave of cruise missiles at Ukraine this morning, damaging thermal and hydroelectric power plants in six regions. However, the Ukrainian air defence said it shot down 61 missiles out of 71.
  • Russian forces have begun their next major offensive along the Svatove-Kreminna line in Luhansk oblast.
  • Volodymyr Zelensky said that ‘several’ European countries are showing readiness to send western-made fighter jets to Ukraine ‘when the time comes’.
  • The UK said there won’t be an immediate transfer of British combat aircraft to Ukraine, but it will train Ukrainian pilots and supply long-range missiles and drones.
  • Ukraine has submitted a request asking the Netherlands to supply F-16 fighter jets.
  • Elon Musk’s SpaceX is preventing Ukraine’s military from using its Starlink satellite internet service to control drones in the combat zone. The company’s president said the system was ‘never meant to be weaponised’.
  • The Netherlands, Denmark, and Germany have pledged to provideUkraine with at least 100 Leopard 1 battle tanks in the coming months.
  • Zelensky said he believes that the 2014 Minsk agreements were, from the outset, initiated by the West as a concession to Russia, and that it was impossible to fulfil them without Ukraine ceding territory.
  • There are strong indications that Vladimir Putin decided to supply the missile that shot down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine in 2014, killing all 298 people on board.


Ukrainian-language media selection

This is intended for readers who use tools such as Chrome Translate to translate foreign web pages into English. More about those tools here.

Russia’s February offensive – Yevhen Buderatskiy (Ukrainian pravda)

Survivors of Russian torture share stories of abuse – Iryna Matviyishyn (Kyiv Independent)

How Brussels assesses Kyiv’s readiness to join the EU –Serhiy Sidorenko (European pravda)

A new principle of world security – Eric Kucherenko (European pravda)

Moldova declares ‘war’ on separatists – Serhiy Sidorenko (European pravda)

The analysis

The politics of Eurovision

This newsletter has always been about more than just the war. Yes, my main goal is to explain why and how Ukrainians are fighting the invasion, but also to decrease the distance between our countries, help you to understand Ukraine better. Our nation has been in Russia’s shadow for ages. The Kremlin’s rule created many myths, some of which are still believed abroad. It is easy to fall into Mosсow’s propaganda, which we can see in cultural as well as political points. One of them is the world’s most-watched cultural event: the Eurovision Song Contest.

It’s an annual collision of politics, music and culture – and winners tend to succeed by playing up the politics. Norway won in 2009 by fielding a Minsk-born violinist with a Slavic tune, hoovering up Eastern bloc votes as well as those from Scandinavia. And the Czecs are this year going for the pro-Ukraine vote by performing the chorus of their song in Ukrainian. They can even boast a Russian band member who is proudly anti-war. The band Vesna dedicated their song to Ukraine and the sisterhood of Slavic countries, singing in several languages. The video for ‘My sister’s crown’ came out on January 29, and within four hours it was banned in Russia and Belarus. It’s tipped to finish in the top five, which would be the best-ever Czech performance.

Olesya Ochepovska, the Russian band member, shares pictures on Instagram of Ukrainian bracelets and the white-blue-white symbol of Russians who are against the war. The band urges listeners to choose ‘love over power’. But Ukrainians are not quite so thrilled, for important reasons that explain our hesitation with ‘anti-war’ language.

‘Once upon a time in a Slavic Kingdom there was love and sisterhood,’ it begins, ‘until one day shadows crept in and everything was forgotten.’ The band describes the friendship between Slavic sisters who quarrelled. In the clip, a ‘third force’ destroys harmony between the sisters. This is one of the most common Russian narratives: that someone (usually in the West) is trying to make ‘fraternal nations’ fight among themselves. One of the fundamental mythologies of Soviet propaganda is the brotherhood of the Russian and Ukrainian people. Vladimir Putin often likes to repeat his thesis about the two countries being ‘one nation’ in his public speeches, and his myth of a ‘Russkiy Mir’ was a pretext to invasion. We’re family, he’d say, why let borders divide us? This narrative of sisterhood led to the unarmed occupation of Belarus, which is now engaged in the war against Ukraine, deploying Russian aircraft and military personnel on its territory.

The chorus of the Czech Eurovision entry features the lyrics ‘My sister’s crown, don’t take it down’. What does this refer to? ‘We decided to make the artistic choice to give tribute to our close sister, Ukraine,’ the band explained. ‘Speaking about the crown as it has always represented sovereignty. Both the individual and national.’

The crown has never been a Ukrainian symbol: rather, it denotes the Russian tsars, who for several centuries tried to erode Ukrainian culture and identity in pursuit of the idea that Ukraine was a part of Russia. Sweden’s famous musical advice to a would-be Eurovision winner is to call a song ‘love love, peace peace’. But love won’t expel Russian occupiers or liberate the Donbas. Ukraine needs lethal arms and jets with bunker-busting bombs. That’s why Ukrainians cannot rally behind Vesna’s doubtlessly well-intended invocation. The phrase ‘stop the war’ is increasingly being used by those who think Putin should be appeased.

Eurovision entries often try to articulate a historical moment: enlisting an anti-war Russian in a song about peace is a decent attempt to do that. Ukrainians appreciate the intention behind the lyrics; I don’t want to seem ungrateful here. And yes, Eurovision lyrics are made up for reasons of rhyme rather than politics. But this has touched on a broader point about why Ukrainians are nervous when westerners say they want peace or unity between supposed Slavic ‘sisters’. But to wish Ukraine ‘peace, not war’ is to misjudge the moment: we need arms and planes to expel the invader. When this war is over and our borders restored, Ukraine will join the world in wishing for love and peace. But for now, we need to finish the fight.


In pictures

London, UK: Volodymyr Zelensky visited the UK to thank Britain for its support and weapons, without which Ukraine would not have survived so far. He also asked Rishi Sunak – and other European leaders – for planes (Getty)


Quote of the week

‘In Britain, the King is an air force pilot. And in Ukraine today, every air force pilot is a king… [we] do everything possible and impossible to make the world provide us with modern planes. To empower and protect pilots who will be protecting us.’

– Volodymyr Zelensky called on Britain to provide fighter jets to Ukraine in a speech to MPs in Westminster


Wider reading on the war

Why Ukraine needs British war planes – Svitlana Morenets (The Spectator)

How a band of Ukraine civilians helped seal Russia’s biggest defeat – Jonathan Landay and Tom Balmforth (Reuters)

The top five lessons from year one of Ukraine’s war –Stephen M. Walt (Foreign Policy)

What Ukraine needs to liberate Crimea – Alexander Vindman (Foreign Affairs)

Along the Ukraine-Belarus border, there’s a war of nerves – and drones – (ABC)


The war in numbers

Wagner soldiers who were previously convicts


The mercenary force say they will stop recruiting prisoners

Russia to cut oil production by


from next month, equivalent to 500,000 barrels a day

Russian cruise missiles in Moldovan airspace


The missiles were aimed at energy infrastructure in eastern Ukraine


Svitlana Morenets was a journalist in Kyiv. She hitchhiked in Crimea to learn more about life under Russian occupation and wrote a story about her experience in 2019. She was abroad during the 24 February invasion and is now in London under the refugee scheme. If you enjoy it, please forward it to someone you know: you can sign up here. Svitlana’s writing for The Spectator can be found here. This email is a work in progress: all feedback welcome:


  1. “When this war is over and our borders restored, Ukraine will join the world in wishing for love and peace. But for now, we need to finish the fight.”

    Right on the money Svitlana.
    Ukraine needs loads of help right now. Suppose the 320,000 orcs turn out to be “only” 250,000 and suppose the defenders marmalise fucking 50,000 of them?
    Still 200,000 left.
    It’s a staggering fucking headache for the defenders.
    FFS help them.

    • Ms. Svitlana is one of my favorite wartime writers. She has a knack to weave Ukrainian heritage into her reports and has a prospective that is very welcomed by this reader. I hope she gets many subscriptions and can find her smile again someday.

      • I second that. The Speccie is the oldest magazine in the world (almost 200 years old) and has always attracted top talent: H.G. Wells, T.E. Lawrence, Ian Fleming (James Bond) and a young Boris Johnson was editor.
        So I have no doubt she has a great career ahead of her; perhaps flitting between the UK and her homeland.

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