Ukraine Stories #Week14: Ukrainian forces give ground as eastern front rages, and Kyiv rescuer’s photo blog

Ukrainian rescuer Yurii Lozynskyi. Kyiv Region, Ukraine. March 2022. (Credit: Yuriі Lozynskyі)

In this live blog, at the heart of our project we’ve called “Ukraine Stories”, Ukrainian and Russian journalists write about the harsh living conditions that the Russian invasion has inflicted on them. We cannot always verify the events described in their articles, but their short reports and feature stories describe two countries in the turmoil of war.

This blog is also available in Ukrainian and Russian

A word from our editors

13 hrs., 27.05.2022

To finish this week, we offer you the story of Ukrainian rescuer Yurii Lozynskyi, evacuating people and animals from dangerous places and saving them from death.

War in Ukraine through the eyes of a rescuer: a photo report

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Ukrainian rescuer Yurii Lozynskyi. Kyiv Region, Ukraine. March 2022. (Credit: Yuriі Lozynskyі)

by Mariana Tsymbaliuk, 27.05.2022

Yurii Lozynskyi is a Ukrainian rescuer who risks his life and health every day. From the first days of the war, the brave 22-year-old employee of the State Emergency Service of Ukraine pulled people out of the rubble of houses, evacuated residents and animals from dangerous places and saved them from death.

He spoke about the most dramatic moments of the war and the history of the people who suffered from the Russian invasion.


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Ukrainian rescuer Yurii Lozynskyi with his team. Kyiv Region, Ukraine. March 2022. (Credit: Yuriі Lozynskyі)

“A Russian rocket hit a residential building in Kyiv. Rescuers arrived to evacuate the remaining residents. The problem was that the rocket destroyed the stairwell and people could not go down the stairs. They had to be evacuated from their windows, descending a special fire escape. The most difficult thing was to evacuate sick people in wheelchairs from the highest floors. We placed them in special stretchers and thus lowered them from the 23rd floor.”

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Ukrainian rescuer Yurii Lozynskyi. Kyiv Region, Ukraine. March 2022. (Credit: Yuriі Lozynskyі)

“When we inspected the apartment to see if anyone was left in the room, I saw a dog hiding under the bed. It was all wet and very scared. In general, there were a lot of dead and injured pets in the apartments.”


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Ukrainian rescuer Yurii Lozynskyi with his team. Kyiv Region, Ukraine. March 2022. (Credit: Yuriі Lozynskyі)

“We dismantled the rubble of a house in Borodyanka. (a town near Kyiv badly hit by the war, - ed.). The house collapsed from a Russian missile. The basement was completely crushed by the concrete slabs of the building. At that moment, people were hiding in the basement. Unfortunately, none of them survived, they all died.”


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Borodyanka, Kyiv region, Ukraine. March 2022. (Credit: Yuriі Lozynskyі)

“We evacuated all the residents in one ruined house. We were told that an older man remained inside the building. We searched for a long time and hoped that he was all right. But when we found him, we saw him dead. When the rocket flew into the house, he was asleep, covered with a blanket. A concrete wall fell on him. Maybe he didn’t even realise what had happened.”


“There was a case when a Russian missile hit an apartment building and destroyed it. We did not believe that anyone inside could stay alive. But when we dismantled the debris, we saw a woman who managed to hide in the toilet. The walls and floor around it were completely destroyed.”

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Borodyanka, Kyiv region, Ukraine. March 2022. (Credit: Yuriі Lozynskyі)

“The bath and toilet are the safest places because they are located inside the building between several walls. It saved her life. When we found her, she was in shock and did not understand what had happened.”


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Ukrainian rescuer Yurii Lozynskyi. Kyiv Region, Ukraine. March 2022. (Credit: Yuriі Lozynskyі)

“We are ready for different situations. We often disassemble blockages during an air raid or when the walls may collapse at any moment. One day, during the evacuation of people from an apartment building, an air siren sounded, announcing a missile strike. I saw people on the street running away and hiding in safe places. My comrades and I were on the 23rd floor and realised that we would not have time to go down and hide in the shelter.

I had already said goodbye to life. Fortunately, the rocket fell nearby and no one was injured. Of course, we are a little scared, but we still continue to do our job. After all, since childhood I wanted to help people.”

A word from our editors

9 hrs., 27.05.2022

Good morning. We are at the end of week 14 of the Russian Invasion of Ukraine.

A week that has seen Russian advances in Luhansk where Ukrainians admit they are retreating, and there were renewed artillery attacks on Kharkiv, as well as the Dnipropetrovsk region. The Turks are attempting to negotiate the opening of Black sea wheat export roots.

There are further signs that Russian troops are consolidating control in Kherson, as well as occupied parts of the Zaporizhzhya region. As Ukraine has stated it will not negotiate a way to land for peace, it seems the Russians have no intention of giving up any land they have taken by force.

Finally, President Zelenskyi has renewed his claim that Russia is pursuing genocide in Donbas.

Bloody spring finale: Kharkiv comes to life under the sounds of explosions

Public utilities and volunteers are dismantling blockages and repairing damaged houses as part of the Rebuild Kharkiv 'Together' initiative. (Credit: Stanyslav Kybalnyk)

by Stanislav Kibalnyk, 27.05.2022

With the gradual shift of the front line from the northeastern outskirts to the Russian border, life in Kharkiv had begun to return to some semblance of normality. Between 2,000-5,000 people have been returning to the city every day. Several trolleybus and bus routes have resumed and the metro has been restored since 24 May with the exception of three stations in Saltivka (the area most affected by the shelling, ed.). Dozens of new establishments are opening in the city centre every day. One of the residents was surprised the other day:

“I can even see a lot of people in neighbouring houses who haven't been there for a long time. In my house, the number of inhabited apartments has at least doubled,” the person said.

“Returning to most parts of the city does not raise special issues. But it is embarrassing for the districts of North Saltivka or the Pyatykhats. There are no shops operating in these areas due to the colossal scale of the destruction. Volunteers who support life there are overwhelmed with work. Many places do not have light and water. It would seem that places are not suitable for a minimum of normal life. But people are coming back! ”

But the shelling has not fully subsided. Although there are few of them, they happen suddenly. Both of these areas are still covered by artillery, and missiles. On the morning of 23 May, the wreckage closed a bus stop which miraculously wasn’t busy. One man was hospitalised with a concussion.

[Since this article was submitted, new artillery fire pounded the northern part of the city on 27 May, killing at least nine people and injuring 17. - ed]

Despite this, more and more people are on the streets. Now, in addition to those who just walk, there are also boys on scooters and skates, and companies of cyclists.

Distribution of humanitarian aid in Kharkiv (Credit: Kharkiv City Council)

In street conversations, people often try to forget about the war and express a desire to live as full a life as possible. Apparently, fierce battles lasting only a dozen and a half kilometres do not fit into the mass consciousness. Either you are sitting in a bomb shelter, or the war is somewhere very, very far away…

There are many things we are used to not noticing in peacetime and taking for granted. Over the past spring, we used to do without them. And now we rejoice at every new element of normal life and appreciate them as if we saw them for the first time.

A word from our editors

1  pm, 26.05.2022

Day 92 of Russia’s all-out war against Ukraine. President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyi rejected the proposal of former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who advised Ukraine at the Davos summit to agree to the loss of part of its territories for the sake of peace.

The president says that instead, Ukraine immediately needs heavy weapons from partner countries. So far, the Ukrainian side states that the occupiers are still attacking in the east and preparing for an offensive in the southern Zaporizhia direction.

Today we will tell the story of what turns the Russian offensive in Donbas.

Russian troops destroyed two schools that survived World War II

Lysychansk multidisciplinary gymnasium after the attack (Credit: Luhansk administration)

by Stanislav Kibalnyk, 26.05.2022

In the vortex of information coming this month from Mariupol and some other places, two events in Donbas went almost unnoticed.

On 2 May it was reported that a gymnasium in Lysychansk that survived two world wars and hostilities in 2014 was burnt down  as a result of the Russian shelling burned down It was built on the wave of the industrial boom of the late nineteenth century as a hospital. This was probably due to the fact that, due to the lack of any labour protection in the enterprises, death could await workers at every step. In 1890, at the mouth of the Bilenka River, the Russian-Belgian joint-stock company Lyubimov, Solve and Co. founded the Donetsk Soda Plant, which was put into operation in 1892 and in three years became the number one soda producer of the Russian Empire.  At the beginning of the twentieth century the plant produced more products than all other soda plants in the country combined. The same company also took over the local coal mines. Accordingly, the old building was part of the "Belgian" architectural ensemble of the city. It became a school in 1977.

Nowadays, Lysychansk multidisciplinary gymnasium has become the only educational institution in the Luhansk region, which according to the results of external evaluation was included in the top 100 best schools of Ukraine and has received other educational medals and awards.

On the night of 18 May, Russian troops also burnt the Avdiivka Secondary School No. 1 in the suburbs of Donetsk with phosphorus shells.

Ruins of a school in Avdiivka, which has stood for 80 years. (Credit: Pavlo Kirilenko)

The  symbolism of the situation is that it was already a monument of modern history of the frontline city. Visitors from other regions often come to Avdiivka to see "life on the border" from abroad. Its historical and local lore museum has exhibits from the 18th century.

Why did these buildings become targets for shelling? It is very simple: despite the fact that there were no military positions, schools are centres of urban public life and, in particular, can be used as humanitarian centres. The destruction of the social fabric is an integral part of the scorched earth tactics in total war. Therefore, unfortunately, similar news is likely to  come from Donbas in the future.

Meanwhile in Russian news…


Cars in Kherson and Zaporizhzhya regions switch to Russian number plates

This was reported by Meduza with reference to the TV channel Kherson and Zaporizhzhya 24, the ataman (leader) of Zaporizhzhya region Sergey Yurchenko said. Bodies of inter-district registration and examination departments of the state traffic safety Inspectorate are also being formed in these regions.

Woman fined for standing next to another activist

In Buryatia (Siberia), a court found Lilia Donskaya guilty of discrediting the military and imposed a fine of 40,000 rubles. She was in the bus next to pensioner Natalya Filonova, who demanded that the driver remove the letter Z.

According to law enforcers, Donskaya expressed “tacit agreement” with the pensioner's words. The only evidence the police had was a video on the internet showing the woman standing next to Filonova and saying nothing. The pensioner herself was arrested in early May for five days for  petty hooliganism.

Ukrainian flag hoisted on Putin Peak

Inscription on the plaque: Putin Peak 4446 metres. Erected in honour of the 30th anniversary of the Ministry of Emergency Situations and the 95th anniversary of the formation of the fire service. State Rescue Training Centre. (Credit: Twitter user Mountaineer With a Twig)

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In Kyrgyzstan, a flag of Ukraine was planted on Vladimir Putin Peak (a mountain peak in the Tian-Shan system). Telegram channel Baza published a video by Twitter user Mountaineer With a Twig.

Charities report drop in donations after Russia disconnected from payment apps

Donations to charities have declined since Apple Pay, Paypal, and other payment apps were disconnected due to sanctions, representatives of organisations sais in  conversation with business newspaper RBC.

For example, Podari Zhizn, a non-governmental foundation for children and young adults with serious illnesses, was forced to cancel all monthly PayPal subscriptions, totalling about 400,000 rubles (€6,400) a month, because the service is no longer available in Russia. In addition, some benefactors are simply unsubscribing from their monthly aid. In March 2022, 1500 people cancelled regular donations totalling 1.5 million roubles (€24,000). And in April, 326 more people unsubscribed for a total of 304,000 roubles (€4,870).

A word from our editors

17 hrs., 25.05.2022

Day 91 of Russia’s all-out war against Ukraine. Fighting is ongoing near Severodonetsk, while Ukraine is managing to defend its territories in the rest of the Donbas and Kharkiv region, according to a report from the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. The Russian army also struck Kryvyi Rih in the Dnipropetrovsk region with three missiles, causing damage to an industrial enterprise. This is according to the military administration of the region.

A partially destroyed residential building in Severodonetsk, Luhansk region. (Credit: Serhiy Haidai, head of Luhansk regional military administration)

Our blog story today is about restoring life in Irpin, Kyiv region.

Restoring Irpin

Credit: Maksym Khotilenko

by Maksym Khotilenko, 25.05.2022

Fifty thousand people losing homes. Water storage tanks destroyed by missiles. Around 50 destroyed units of community equipment serving the town. These are the consequences of Russian invasion into a once calm and cosy city of Irpin outside Kyiv.

The city is now trying to return to its pre-war life.

Artur Zahodirenko is a director of a local water utility company. He stayed in his office when Russia invaded – up until the Russians destroyed everything.

“I came here all the time, checked the state of the boreholes. But when missiles hit the storage tanks, which led to a power cut, I joined my local volunteer forces. I started protecting the city with a gun in my hands. They destroyed everything, and I don’t even know where to begin,” Zahodirenko said.

Zahodirenko looks at the destroyed equipment in despair. The damage caused is more than 100 million hryvnias (over 9.5 million euros). But that’s not all. The occupants also destroyed the premises of the enterprise and the Swiss-made filtration systems only installed last year. Thanks to the work of the European organisations and volunteers, the work of two crucial water storage tanks has now relaunched.

Zahodirenko is now working on launching the water filtration systems.

European experts have already estimated the cost of the damage to the systems, and the results are not encouraging. Only four out of the 10 systems survived – the rest need to be replaced. This is the most timely concern for us,” he said.

Partners from the whole world are helping Irpin today. The water utility company has already received 13 units of equipment. The Red Cross is due to bring two tractors and one crane in June.

If this help continues, the town will be able to come back to life in the coming months.

School in Mykolaiv goes out and beyond to help war-torn city

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School employee Varvara Strapko helps with the water distribution. (Credit: courtesy)

By Оleksii Platonov, 24.05.2022

Despite constant shelling and bombing in Mykolaiv, the southern Ukrainian city continues to persevere and function.

Petrol and oil supplies are disrupted, and residents face big queues for humanitarian aid. Water for technical use has been partially restored, but serious problems remain with drinking water. The local government – in cooperation with humanitarians – is operating on all levels in order to help resolve emergency questions.

Schools in Mykolaiv are also actively helping out locals during the war. For example, the employees of the Mykolaiv Lyceum 19 opened up the school’s basement to residents of the neighbouring apartment blocks from the first day of the war.

At one time, 700 people were using that basement as a bomb shelter. The school created a volunteer hub and organised drinking water for them.

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Varvara Strapko (Credit: courtesy)

“Before the war started, I was the school’s head of community and also worked as a technical expert,” Varvara Strapko said. “When the fighting began, I prepared bomb shelters for parents, schoolchildren, and residents of the neighbouring apartment blocks.”

According to Strapko, she is now working on the supply of drinking water and helping to look after the lyceum territory in order to “preserve its pre-war condition.”

She says that a six-metre-long rocket landed on the school roof in March while its basement was being used as a bomb shelter. Luckily, the missile didn’t explode but instead got stuck between the roof and a maths classroom.

[The rocket] was liquidated, and the hole in the roof was mended,” Strapko said.

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Rocket in the maths classroom. (Photo: courtesy)

According to Strapko, the Mykolaiv Lyceum 19 also acts as a transshipment base for supplying the entire Mykolaiv region with humanitarian aid — its districts and villages. Before the area became occupied by Russia,  aid was also delivered to Kherson and the Kherson region.

“We unload and load cars ourselves, and  volunteers do the driving to the designated destinations,” Strapko said. “For those districts inaccessible by big vehicles, we load the goods into vans.”

The drinking water problem was handled with the help of the company called Enerhozeberezhennia, according to Strapko.

“I bought four plastic drums with lids and organised their delivery. Then I set up the water distribution and created a schedule for it. Water is now delivered twice a day,” she explained.

The vessels with water were erected onto a special foundation base by the school employees with the help of upper school students who remain in the city.

Strapko said that one teacher in particular, Yevhen Sorochan, spends all his time at the school.

“I organised the work of the bomb shelter together with him,” Strapko said.

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Yevhen Sorochan with a lawn mower. (Credit: courtesy)

She recalled how there was “a lot of confusion and panic” on 24 February, but the school employees cleared out the basement by 25 February and ensured the electricity supply.

“The children were finally able to sleep horizontally, but the adults had to sit on chairs and wait,” Strapko said.

The bomb shelter is currently in a “hibernation mode” as Mykolaiv has been relatively quiet recently, according to Strapko.

The school employees also used their own funds to buy a lawn mower. Sorochan – who teaches Ukrainian language and literature and also  serves as a head teacher in the upper school – mows the school's lawns together with his students.

The lyceum teachers say that despite most students being abroad, they continue teaching. “Many are really missing their beloved lyceum, classmates, teachers, hometown and country. All of them are 100 per cent patriots of Ukraine and cannot wait for the war to be over,” the school said.

“There is a war, but life goes on and we without a doubt believe in Ukraine’s victory. We do everything possible on all our fronts,” Strapko reassured.

Meanwhile in Russia-related news


‘Almost no one is happy with Putin’

Dissatisfaction with the Russian president's actions is growing in the Kremlin. According to the independent media Meduza, in three months Putin has managed to turn both the “party of peace” and those who want war against him. The former are dissatisfied with the sanctions and their consequences, and the latter with the slow pace of the “special operation”.

The Kremlin hopes he will be gone “for the foreseeable future” - and is choosing a successor, Meduza reported. The three favourites are Sergei Sobyanin, mayor of Moscow; Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council; and Sergei Kirienko, first deputy head of the presidential administration. The latter has been in frequent contact with Putin since he was appointed curator of Donbass.

“It's not that they want to overthrow Putin right now and a conspiracy is being prepared. But there is an understanding, or wishful thinking, that he will not be running the state in the fairly foreseeable future,” Meduza's interviewees said.

‘Freedom to Ukraine! Putin the devil!’: Student and mother forced to apologise for anti-war speech

(Screenshot of a video of the graduate apologising on camera for her words. Credit: Telegram channel Dagestanskie izvestiya)
Screenshot of the school ceremony video (Source: Telegram channel Ostorozhno, novosti)

On the morning of 22 May, a video emerged of a pupil of school No. 11 in the town of Izberbash in the Republic of Dagestan (Caucasus, about 1,900 km south of Moscow) shouting during her graduation: “No to war. Freedom to Ukraine! Putin is a devil!”. It was reported by the Telegram channel “Ostorozhno, novosti”. After that, an administrative case was filed against the student, Zukhra, under an article on discrediting the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, and her mother was drawn up a protocol for neglect of parental duties. Pro-state Telegram channels in the region immediately started writing that the student was quiet, was depressed and that is why she did so.

The police also forced Zukhra and her mother to record a video, later published by Dagestanskiye Izvestiya. In the video, the girl says she “just wanted to draw attention to herself” and expresses regret. Zukhra's mother says on camera that she supports the actions of the authorities and Vladimir Putin and also calls herself a patriot.

Parents in Moscow kindergarten quarrel over yellow and blue balloons

(Credit: Telegram channel Ostorozhno, novosti)

A mother at a kindergarten in the Russian capital resented the choice of decoration for a children’s graduation party, according to Telegram-channel "Ostorozhno, novosti".  Perceiving the gold and blue balloons as Ukrainian propaganda, the woman decided to take matters into her own hands.

“She said that we have the colours of the flag of the country ‘which-we-cannot-name’, bought red balloons in the shape of stars herself and brought them to the party,” other parents told the channel.

WHO and Red Cross stop vital drug supply to DNR and LNR

The Russian state-run news agency RIA Novosti has reported that the WHO and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have stopped supplying the “Donetsk and Luhansk people's republics” with life-saving medicines for some diseases such as diabetes, AIDS and tuberculosis. According to RIA Novosti, more than 12,000 HIV-infected patients will be left without life-saving treatment in the Donetsk people's republic after the ICRC supplies run out.

Over 20 percent of Ukraine's territory occupied

According to Forbes, Russia occupies around 125,000 square kilometres of Ukrainian territory, including parts of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kharkiv, Kherson, Zaporizhzhya and Crimea. The entire territory of Ukraine is 603,548 square kilometres.

The Kyiv, Chernihiv, Sumy, Mykolaiv and Zhytomyr regions have been liberated from occupation.

Moscow to rebuild Donetsk and Luhansk people's republics

Moscow will take patronage of the “Donetsk and Luhansk people's republics” and will supervise the restoration of the cities' infrastructure, the Pro-Russian media RBC reported, citing sources.

According to a source close to the Moscow mayor's office, funds from the capital's budget will be used to rebuild Donetsk and Luhansk. RBC's sources did not specify how much money might be needed and how the costs would be distributed. The Moscow mayor's press service declined to comment, the newspaper said.

On 14 May, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin announced the start of the reconstruction of the “LPR” infrastructure. “The first convoy of equipment of 70 vehicles and about 350 specialists arrived in the region today,” he wrote in his Telegram channel.

On 20 May, Khusnullin said that a schedule to restore Russian controlled territories had already been drawn up.

“We will build, restore all roads, housing destroyed. The second set of measures is the restoration of the economy,” the deputy prime minister said.

Parents of missing Moskva sailors asked to declare their children ‘dead as a result of the disaster’

More than a month has passed since the crash of the Moskva cruiser. So far the Defence Ministry has reported only once about one serviceman killed and 27 missing, while the parents of the sailors told “Novaya Gazeta. Europe” that about 40 of their sons had died. The number of wounded and evacuated remains unknown. The parents of the conscripts, who by some unknown reason were onthe flagship of the Black Sea Fleet, continue to seek the truth. They’ve said they will  file a class action suit against the Russian Defence Ministry.

Two mothers of the missing sailors told “Novaya Gazeta. Europe” that they were offered to voluntarily acknowledge that their sons “died as a result of the catastrophe”. They refused to sign the documents. The Russian independent media published an anonymous story by the mother of an enlisted man about how the command communicates with his parents and what the wounded servicemen say in hospitals.

Ukrainian authorities said on 13 April that the Russian cruiser had been hit by Neptun missiles. The next day, the Russian Defence Ministry confirmed the explosion on the cruiser but said that the ammunition on board had detonated, the sailors had been evacuated and the cruiser itself “retained its buoyancy”. The Russian ministry then said the Moskva sank while being towed to Sevastopol in stormy conditions.

Meanwhile in Ukraine…

Singing over the sirens: Odesa’s opera house prepares world premiere

Odesa’s opera and ballet theatre. May 2022. (Credit: Tetiana Bezhenar)

By Tetiana Bezhenar, 23.05.2022

It is pure luck we were able to go behind the scenes of the Odesa Opera and see for ourselves how workers on the cultural front wage their own war against the Russian occupiers with “soft” power.

Despite the war and the constant threat of missile strikes, the father of Ukrainian literature Taras Shevchenko's poem “Kateryna” is being prepared for its world premiere. The main theme is the tragedy of a Ukrainian girl who falls in love with a Russian soldier in the 19th century.

“Kateryna is a collective image of the fate of Ukrainian women. Shevchenko portrayed her very subtly, showing all the pain, all the injustice. In short, she is a young girl who fell in love and wants to live for her love. But the Muscovite betrayed her. This is probably not surprising in today's world. To me, it hurts the most. The image of Kateryna is such that it does not leave anyone indifferent. Sometimes we artists appear to have tears in our eyes because we are emotionally embodied with our heroes,” Yulia Tereshchuk, a soloist at the opera house.

Read the full article here.

A word from our editors

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Screenshot from a promo clip by ‘Ukraine House Davos’. May 2022. (Source: Youtube/Ukraine House Davos channel)

14 hrs., 23.05.2022

The Davos economic forum has kicked off in the Swiss alps, hosting no Russian delegation for the first time in decades, after being told by organisers they would be not welcome.

And on the special Ukrainian menu over the next four days, there is a special address by President Volodymyr Zelenskyi and the first lady Olena Zelenska; sessions with Ukrainian government officials and business leaders; Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klytschko and his brother will further discuss plans to rebuild Kyiv and the necessary assistance, followed by a session on responding to the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, food and energy supplies, and discussions on the digital strategy of Ukraine, cyber warfare, as well as the transformation of governance. Ukraine will also be discussed in the context of the new Cold War and the security of Europe, new migration flows, and the revision of the EU's partnership policy.

A separate session on Thursday, 26 May, will be devoted to the work of journalists covering the war in Ukraine.

Finally, “Russia House”, where Russian officials and businesses would have usually showcased themselves to investors, has been taken over by artists and rebranded “Russia war crimes house”, with images showing Ukrainians at war.

Meanwhile, the fuel crisis in Ukraine continues. Most petrol stations have no petrol or diesel fuel, while the quality of the petrol offered on sale has considerably decreased. The queues to get petrol are very long too.

Meanwhile, our next story is about the relocation of businesses in Ukraine due to the war.

How Ukrainian businesses flee the war

Credit: Ihor Zenchenko

By Mariana Tsymbaliuk, 23.05.2022

The Ivano-Frankivsk region in the west of Ukraine is a tourist mountain region of Ukraine, which is often compared to the Swiss Alps. The Ukrainian Carpathians with clean air, water, and a developed hotel and recreation sector has long been a favourite place for domestic and foreign tourists. Large and small enterprises from the at-risk cities of Ukraine have relocated here. To preserve their businesses, many companies simply move their oversized heavy equipment and production equipment under fire from the Russians.

Ihor Zenchenko, the head of a garment company from Chernihiv, talked about the problems faced by entrepreneurs transporting businesses from one end of the country to the other. The company has been operating in the Ukrainian market for more than 20 years. The main production is tailoring uniforms for different industries. His production facilities are located in Kyiv and other cities in Ukraine.

“One of the enterprises, (Chernihiv region), specialises in tailoring military uniforms. Now we fulfill the state order for outerwear, travel bags, covers for bulletproof vests, or medical first-aid kits.”

Credit: Ihor Zenchenko

On the first day of the war the company did not stop working, although there was fighting near the premises and shots were heard.

“I let people go home, but I was in the factory for three weeks under fire until the electricity and water supply were cut off. During the very heavy shelling, we decided to evacuate. We counted the seconds between shots to get out of the yard of the factory. At first, we went to Kyiv, drove off the road for several tens of kilometers, and came under fire – we now call this road the road of life,” recalls Ihor.

One of the company's founders began evacuating the company from its Kyiv premises even earlier. He considered several options for relocating the business. Shortly after that, he received an offer from the Ivano-Frankivsk region.

“Our management was very impressed by the reception we were given. Several workers also came here with me. We all live in the same village school. We are given three delicious meals a day.”

It was not also a problem to find new seamstresses and workers in the new city.

“I am pleasantly surprised, many people responded to the information about the recruitment. Immediately after the announcement, 25 to 30 people came. The local Employment Centre and local authorities helped us in our search. I didn't think that there would be so many people willing to work at once, especially as many seamstresses evacuated to different European countries,” says Ihor.

In a new place, the production facility is still able to tailor clothes and products of the bag-backpack line for military needs.

Credit: Ihor Zenchenko

“We now have 40 workstations indoors, but this number will increase as we plan to expand production. For production needs, we have recently purchased additional new equipment that is able to attach specific parts to clothing. At the same time, we are currently looking for cutters for ancillary work.”

If the company successfully launches this, it will be another ‘separate combat unit’ of the company and Ihor recommends other businesses follow his steps.

“In any industry, it all starts with people. It is necessary to find out in advance whether there are potential employees in the region with appropriate education or minimum training,” he concludes.

The fuel crisis in Ukraine continues. Most petrol stations have no petrol or diesel fuel, while the quality of the petrol offered on sale has considerably decreased. The queues to get petrol are very long too.

Petrol and diesel fuel shortages: high prices and low quality

A queue for a petrol station in Ukraine. (Credit: Geneva Solutions)

By Mariana Motrunych, 23.05.2022

This fuel crisis is not wholly unexpected, as Ukraine used to buy over 50 per cent of its fuel from Russia and Belarus, which was imported through Ukrainian ports in the Black Sea that is currently blocked by Russian troops. But the situation deteriorated after Russian missiles destroyed the most powerful oil producer, the Kremenchuk Refinery, in early April this year. Since the full-scale war began, Russian missiles have damaged and destroyed more than 20 oil depots.

Due to this situation, petrol is now being imported to Ukraine from Europe. Previously, there were no effective logistics links set up for this. Today, petrol is being imported by fuel trucks, of which there is a lack. In addition, there are long queues of cars at the borders and fuel trucks are forced to wait in line.

The fuel shortage has been an ongoing issue for almost a month. Sometimes, after standing in line for several hours at a petrol station, people are left with nothing as the station runs out of petrol. Most stations sell no more than 10 or 20 litres of petrol and diesel fuel per person.

According to the UN’s International Labor Organization, nearly five million people have lost their jobs since the start of the full-scale war. Serhiy Kuyun, director of the A-95 consulting group, says that many unemployed drivers now queue for petrol in order to then resell it at a higher price.

“You can buy 40 hryvnias per litre for a canister and sell it for 70. There is no work now, so it’s a good income,” Kuyun said. In addition, people either add at least a few extra litres to their tank, or stock up for the future by filling their fuel canisters.

Prices at petrol stations fluctuate, occasionally getting very high. On 17 May, Ukraine’s Cabinet of Ministers announced that it has agreed with market operators to suspend state regulation of fuel prices to resolve the problem of fuel shortage as soon as possible. The government hopes that high fuel prices will reduce queues at fuel stations. Only those who really need it will buy fuel.

The petrol that is being sold is usually of low quality as the State Coinspection has suspended fuel quality control since March. Kuyun notes that fraud involving the sale of substandard fuel has become more common for petrol stations. The expert said that Ukraine does not have all the necessary components for producing high-quality petrol today.

Meanwhile in Russia-related news…

‘Ashamed' Russian UN diplomat resigns in Geneva over Ukraine war

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Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations Office and other international organizations in Geneva (Credit: Twitter/ Russian Mission in Geneva)

Boris Bondarev, Russia’s counsellor to the UN in Geneva, resigned on Monday, calling the war in Ukraine a “crime against the Ukrainian people” as well as Russia’s population.

“Never have I been so ashamed of my country as on February 24 of this year,” the Russian expert on arms control wrote on a LinkedIn post.

Boris Bondarev, the resigned Russian adviser to the UN in Geneva, and his statement (Credit: Telegram channel Ostorozhno, novosti)

“I regret to admit that over all these twenty years the level of lies and unprofessionalism in the work of the Foreign Ministry has been increasing all the time. However, in most recent years, this has become simply catastrophic.”

Read the full article here.

Starbucks to close 130 coffee shops and lay off employees in Russia

US coffee chain Starbucks will close its Russian legal entity Coffee Siren. All employees will be dismissed within three months. Details about the decision will be announced by Starbucks on the evening of May 23, a company source told the Sota media.

Starbucks suspended operations in Russia on 10 March. The announcement was published on the chain's official website. Representatives of the company offered to refund deposit cards, used for discounts or free drinks, on request.

At the beginning of 2022, there were 130 Starbucks coffee shops in Russia. The chain employed almost 2,000 workers. After the start of the Russian special operation in Ukraine, Starbucks promised to keep paying its employees’ salaries until further decisions were made.

Other major corporations including Pepsi, Coca-Cola, and McDonald’s have also closed down in Russia. However, some companies have made plans to return, changing ownership and brands. On Monday, 23 March, it was reported that McDonald's was planning to reopen with the same menu but under a different name. L'Occitane made a similar decision, changing its shop signage to the Russian name “Л’Окситан” (same name, in Russian letters).

YouTube has removed more than 70,000 videos related to the war in Ukraine

The streaming platform has taken down more than 70,000 videos and 9,000 channels related to the war in Ukraine for violating content guidelines, according to The Guardian, in particular, videos describing Russia's invasion of Ukraine as a “liberation mission”.

The company explained that YouTube has a policy on major violent events. “What's happening in Ukraine is a major violent event. So we used that policy to take unprecedented action,” commented Neil Mohan, YouTube's director of products.

According to him, the main responsibility of the company’s management is to ensure that people who are looking for information about the war in Ukraine “can get accurate, quality and reliable information on YouTube”.

In Russia, YouTube is used by an estimated 90 million people, although advertising on the platform is no longer allowed in Russia. In February, YouTube removed the channel of Russian propagandist Vladimir Solovyov.

Channels affiliated with the Russian defence and foreign ministries were banned from uploading videos describing the war as a “liberation mission” in recent months.

A word from our editors

6 hrs., 23.05.2022

Good morning. We are into day 89 of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. We start our weekly blog with reports of stolen grain in the Luhansk region, as well as stories of evacuation from Mykolayiv and Mariupol.

Russian occupiers plan to export grains from Luhansk region

Starobilsk in the Luhansk region (Credit: Ksenia Novitska)

A journalist from an occupied city in the Luhansk region said Russian military and separatists are exporting valuable equipment out of the area, including bricks and grain.

By Ksenia Novitska, 20.05.2022

Atrocities committed by the Russian army continue in Starobilsk in the Luhansk region.Russian occupiers decided that it was not enough to steal computers and medical equipment. They are now working on a railway line to connect the Starobilsk Grain Elevator Enterprise with the so-called Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) railway network to export all grains produced in the region to the LPR.

They work quickly because they understand that a counter-offensive from the Armed Forces of Ukraine is inevitable, so they quickly grab everything they can.

Here’s what they wrote on their website:

“Specialists of the state unitary enterprise Luhansk Railway are building a railway line connecting the Starobilsk Elevator enterprise with the railway network of the republic. Farmers from the northern regions of the LPR store wheat, barley, corn, and sunflower seeds at the elevator. Previously, agricultural products were delivered and taken out of the granary only by road. Specialists plan to complete the main work on the construction of the railway line this week.”

Not only do they take grains from Starobilsk but also bricks.

Starobilsk in the Luhansk region (Credit: Ksenia Novitska)

Houses in the Vatutina quarter, which were damaged by the shelling of the Russian occupation forces in February, are already being disassembled.

The Russian army says that Russia is going to build new ones. But in fact, the soldiers are sending the bricks, like everything else, to an unknown location.

Another reason the occupiers do this is so that the Ukrainian government is deprived of tax revenues. They are forcing local entrepreneurs to re-register their businesses in the so-called Luhansk People's Republic to pay taxes there.

Many people agree because they are afraid of the consequences promised to them by the representatives of the “new government”. However, they themselves emphasise that this is done solely to “stabilise prices for goods and services”.

But the prices are sky-high. And they will remain so until the city is liberated.

Meanwhile back in Russian news…

Database showed debts and fines of Russian officers, and family ties with Ukraine

Project media has published a database with information on Russian army units involved in the war against Ukraine.

The database contains information about 166 commanders. The cards provide, in varying degrees of detail, their biographies, as well as information about their income, property, debts and fines. The Project has found debts for 54 of the 166 officers, including alimony and housing and utilities payments.

At least 20 officers, according to the Project's calculations, were born or raised in Ukraine. Among them is Kharkiv Region native and commander of the 6th Air Force Army Major General Oleg Makovetsky. The Ukrainian prosecutor's office claims that he gave orders to bomb Kharkiv's residential areas and settlements in the region. Lieutenant General Mykhaylo Zusko, a native of Volyn Region, is the commander of the 58th Army, which, according to the Project, was advancing from Crimea in the direction of Mykolayiv. Ukraine accuses him of taking part in the war in Donbas in 2014.

According to Project, the average income of an officer commander of the land army in 2019 was about 270 thousand rubles (€4,120) per month – Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister, by comparison, earned on average 1.2 mln rubles (€18,312) – while commanders of divisions and brigades earned 160 thousand rubles (€2,441) each. According to the declarations, army commanders and division commanders own “one or two small flats”, says the Project.

Of the 166 commanders in the Project's publication, at least 20 were killed, including four natives of Ukraine.

Russians travel to Belarus to apply for credit cards

Russians are crossing the border into Belarus to apply for Visas and MastCards, according to Gazeta.Ru. They can be used to pay for foreign services and subscriptions in the App Store and Google Play, and to use them abroad. However, Belarusian bank cards can’t be used to pay for goods on Russian platforms and in Russian shops. The cards can be opened in Russian rubles, Belarusian rubles, dollars and euros.

Russians have even been travelling further afield to bypass sanctions. After the outbreak of war Russian travel agencies reportedly began to offer “card tours” to the countries of the Caucasus and Central Asia.

Russian managers are buying more one-way tickets abroad

Business newspaper RBC writes about it referring to AeroClub, the business travel services company. The share of single tickets reached 70 per cent in March and 47 per cent in April. In 2019, such tickets accounted for only about a third of bookings.

Back to our stories from Ukraine….

Mykolaiv escape diary: a broken windshield as a ‘gift’ from occupiers

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The shelling of Mykolayiv region (Credit: Svitlana Vovk)

By Svitlana Vovk, 23.05.2022

Standing in line at the gas station in central Ukraine, I noticed a car with a broken windshield. The driver appeared to have escaped from heavy shelling in the Mykolayiv region when he took his relatives out of the city.

In the queue for refuelling, two people were standing by the car with a broken windshield and arguing: an accident or a “gift” from the occupiers?

Victor, (no surname for security reasons), lives in the village of Ukrainka in the Mykolaiv area. He worked as a truck driver. On 24 February 2022, he was waiting in a line of cars, while at 4 am, a rocket landed in Kulbakino (the local airfield, which was the first target of the Russian army in the Mykolaiv region – ed.). He realised that a full-scale war had begun, and he went home straight away.

(Credit: Svitlana Vovk)

“A couple of days later, Russian columns with heavy equipment passed near the village, but our military immediately resisted. Later, the Russian army began hitting the town with mortars.

Then there was a little explosion near the car, a shell fell, and a shockwave shattered the windshield with pieces of earth. No one was injured then, but half of a house was blown apart. People were afraid and hid in basements. At 6 am, I came home and brought the children up from the shelter; at 6:30 am, they fired mortars, and half an hour later there was a second volley.

They were shooting all the time in one area because someone told the Russians that Ukrainian soldiers were somewhere nearby at that moment. At 4 pm, a plane arrived and bombed people's gardens in the afternoon,” Victor said.

That day, Victor decided to take the family out urgently – his children aged 3, 8, and 18, his wife, mother, sister, and her 15-year-old son.

“I took them to Mykolaiv and from there volunteers transported all my family to Odesa, and further away, abroad to the Czech Republic,” Victor recalls.

According to Victor, Russians were firing at his village for the next two weeks, where he stayed, with cluster bombs that killed a local man.

“I jumped back and fell to the ground when I saw something flying; then a bomblet fell 10 metres away from me. It fell by the feet of a man who had just left his house, and it killed him, his horse and chickens,” Victor recalls.

Victor also helped with evacuating people who had a car but were afraid to leave the village. Some fellow villagers asked him to take their animals to other safer towns and districts. There is still no electricity in the town for the third month. There was no gas for a month, but the Ukrainian military pushed the Russians back and were then able to fix it. In a few days, according to Viktor, his village plans to install an electricity generator to pump water into the well so that the town has running water again.

Before the war came here there were about 1,500 people in the village, now only 200 remain.

Mariupol family makes lucky escape after dodging bullet fire

Artem Shapovalov, a Mariupol resident who managed to escape. (Credit: Anna Dnistrovska)

by Anna Dnistrovska, 23.05.2022

He lived in a shelter for a month, ate bread made over a fire, lost his nephew who was attacked by Russian troops, and was wounded in one of three attempts to leave the city. Artem Shapovalov, a 27-year-old resident of Mariupol, talks about life in a city under siege by the Russian army. A month ago, he and his family were able to get out of Mariupol. He says he managed to leave by a miracle. The Russian military shot at the windshield of his car and hit his hand. His five-year-old daughter was saved from a bullet by a box of shoes. In Mariupol, the man had his own bakery, cinema and business centre. All this was destroyed by the Russian army. Currently, the man lives in Kropyvnytskyi. He calls the events he witnessed hell on earth.

For Shapovalov, the full-scale war began at 5:30 am on 24 February. That’s when he heard the first explosion.

“In two minutes I gathered my family, child, wife and moved to a safe place. We began to understand that this is a war not only in Mariupol and Donbas, but throughout the country. We started calling all their relatives, inviting everyone who needed shelter. I had a shelter in one of the business centres and 50 people gathered. On 2 March, light, heat, gas, and water disappeared, and people began to realise that they needed to survive: someone had supplies of water and food, someone was looking for wells. I had a supply of flour, we made bread on the fire,” he says.

Shapovalov says a rocket hit the room where the shelter was on the morning of 7 March. Half of the business centre collapsed, and the car was trapped. He was glad that everyone survived.

“There was not enough oxygen. When possible, we went upstairs for a few minutes to breathe fresh air. The lack of oxygen was especially noticeable in children, so they were first taken outside for at least a few minutes,” says the man.

In a month and a half of shelling he has learnt to distinguish what weapons the Russian occupiers are using.

“Compared to the air strike, “Hail” seemed like a toy, we were not afraid of “hails”, we were afraid of air strikes. On 13 March, I went on foot to inspect my premises so that they would not be looted, we passed along nearby houses and as soon as we returned, we were lifted by an explosive wave. Pillar of dust and smoke. We did not immediately understand, and after a while it became clear that it was an air strike. We see that children and people are under the rubble. Two boys were rescued, one died five days later in intensive care. Children and people were buried right next to houses, people dug holes under fire, buried their relatives or strangers,” says Shapovalov.

A week later, his nephew was killed in an air strike.

“On 13 March, in the left-bank area, he was fired upon by an air strike, a funnel five metres deep – nothing left of the man, a 21-year-old boy. rest in peace.”

“He was walking with a husky dog, its skeleton was thrown into the porch. Only then did we understand that it was him [his nephew]. And there are a lot of people who are missing,” says Shapovalov.

Since the beginning of the invasion, the Russian military has been shelling private houses and high-rise buildings, destroying civilians, says Shapovalov. The looting, he says, began in March: all shops were looted, all pharmacies were destroyed, there were absolutely no shops left – no water, no food, nothing. There are no surviving houses either.

Shapovalov and his family tried to leave Mariupol three times before succeeding.

Family photo (Credit: Artem Shapovalov)

“My room was completely levelled after my family and I left. On 23 March, we decided to leave in spite of everything. We drove to the old  market and I realised that we were being shot. I get out of the car, get on my knees, raise my hands and shout ‘Let us go!’ To the other two cars, I show them to drive back.

Lying close to him was a man who had been shot in the leg and was trying to walk. There was a car in front – the driver had been killed.

“My child was rescued by shoes lying near the rear window of the car and the bullet hit the shoe. I was also injured and I have a scar from a bullet that flew in and out.”

Shapovalov continues: “The people who rode with me understood perfectly well that they were aiming for the heart to kill the driver and shoot the whole car. Now some people say there is a guardian angel in heaven; we were brought to the church, it is a Protestant church that helped take people out of Mariupol and thanks to them we got out.”

He decided to stay in Kropyvnytskyi, to develop his business in a Ukrainian city, because he is Ukrainian and, he says, he does not want to leave. He plans to open a cinema and a bakery with employees who have also left Mariupol.

‘I stood and cried’: how Poland met refugees from Ukraine

Credit: Myroslava Opanasyk

by Myroslava Opanasyk, 23.05.2022

The Ukrainian journalist spoke about the evacuation to Poland and thanked the volunteers and local residents.

The crossing of the Ukrainian-Polish border lasted 10 hours: from 6 pm to 8 am. Everyone was nervous. The queue for cars was huge. There were those who drove forward without a queue, who quarrelled because it seemed to them that someone had broken the queue. In the morning, due to lack of sleep because of night air alarms.

“I was afraid that I would just fall asleep behind the wheel.”

And I have two children in the car: my son and the son of the IDP from Donetsk region – the wife of a cameraman working for Ukrainian TV channel. She also went to Poland with us.

Already when we were waiting for the last stamps in our passports at the Yahodyn-Dorogusk checkpoint on the Polish side, we saw volunteers from Poland helping Ukrainians. I just wanted to kiss them for such care. The children ran for juice and sandwiches. I took some hot tea to keep warm. After all, even before the war I had a cold throat, and going down to the cold basement during the air alarms made my cough even worse. Eventually the border was crossed. I didn't know where to go next. Polish border guards suggested where to look for a refugee reception point in Dorogusk.

Refugee reception point

Credit: Myroslava Opanasyk

I saw a site with many cars. There were a lot of people around, there were tents of volunteers with food, clothes, hygiene products for Ukrainians. On one of the Polish cars I saw a caricature: a Russian bear with a trapped, pinned genitals. Phone numbers and addresses with housing offers for Ukrainians were useful on the information stands.

“I remember standing there looking at it all and just crying with emotion.”

A large hall with folding beds was set up in the premises of the refugee reception center. There were about fifty of them. Some slept, some fed the child, some reported by phone to relatives where they were. It was unrealistic to sleep because of the noise and constant movement. And we were annoyed by the babbling, like shots. It is possible that the door made such a sound. So we decided to just relax a bit and move on.

A canteen was set up at the refugee station. Here the son received his first toy from the Poles – a man like Carlson, and his favorite “chupa-chups”.

“It seemed that every Pole was trying to do everything possible to distract us from sad thoughts about the war.”

Credit: Myroslava Opanasyk

We were given free telephone SIM cards with the numbers of Polish operators. I asked if I could find a separate room to be able to stay there. Because in a hall for 50 people, my son will disturb others. And I can't let go of the cat I took with me. The Poles immediately gave out a phone number and told me where to go.

Hospitable Evelina

This slender beautiful woman was 40 years old. She met us in a car near the church. She showed the way to her house. It was a village 25 km from Dorogusk. We have found ourselves in an unusual peace and quiet lately. The house was located near the forest. We were finally able to take a shower and relax.

Evelina was a real good angel. She tried to surround us with care. My son and I were given a room where Evelina and her husband lived. He and his young daughter Mikhasya moved into the hall. Because of the stress of the first weeks of the war, I didn't want to eat at all, I couldn't sleep.

Evelina tried to cook delicious food. She gave my son his favourite pizza. Her husband Krzysztof, returning from work in the evening, handed me a can of beer so I could fall asleep. Evelina, noticing my cold, suggested a cough medicine.

Her acquaintances called her several times a day and asked what help we needed. They came to us, brought food, clothes, toys and so on. Four days later, there were places in the refugee recreation centre provided by the authorities. So we moved there.