• Of all Ukrainian agricultural companies, Nibulon probably reveals the most about the impact of the current war. Simply because of its scale and scope of activities: it processed millions of tons of crops, bought from smaller farmers, built granaries, and developed a trade and passenger fleet in the Dnipro River and the Black Sea. Before the late 1990s, the cities of Kyiv, Dnipro, Zaporizhzhia, Mykolayiv and Odesa were connected by ship routes, and travel was fast and cheap. Nibulon was on the way to revitalising this supply corridor.

    The large-scale war hit Nibulon from many sides. Many of its fields were occupied by Russia, others were mined or heavily shelled by the invaders. The company lost 40 percent of its workforce: some left the country, some joined the army. As Russia tried to push Ukraine out of the world grains market, it targeted granaries. Now the river fleet is again a dream: about 50 passenger ships cannot move and use of the lower Dnipro River is not an option. Also, last July Russia hit the house of the company’s owner and CEO, Oleksiy Vadatursky. He refused to leave his native city of Mykolayiv. A missile killed him and his wife.

    Vadatursky’s son Andriy took over the business. As the situation stabilised, it became clear that the company’s biggest challenge was maintaining its export routes. Taking the grain to the EU ports by train turned out to be slow and complicated, and made several countries worried. Poland and Slovakia’s hostility towards grain transit left another option: bringing the grain to the Romanian sea port of Constanta via the Danube River, and then shipping it elsewhere. It proves effective, as long as Romania remains onside. That’s why Russians now attack Nibulon and other companies’ granaries around the Ukrainian stretch of the Danube. Mostly to no avail ― for now.

    Anna Novosad used to be Ukraine’s minister of education. Now she runs the NGO SavED, which brings schooling back to war-torn communities in Ukraine.

    Last September, Ukrainians didn’t know how to teach children during a full-scale war. Now we have educated ourselves. What are the challenges that Ukrainian teachers and school children are facing?

    First of all, it’s access to education. In many regions close to the frontline, kids will start learning online, because it is still too dangerous to gather together. Secondly, the Russian occupiers often fire at schools. About 1,500 school buildings have already been destroyed ― and the number is growing.

    For example, we work in many settlements in the Mykolayiv region, where 80% of schools were destroyed. But people are returning, and kids are back ― without places to learn. So we set up temporary schools in culture centres, medical units, basements or shelters.

    There used to be a lot of hope for online learning tools. Are they ineffective?

    Education isn’t just about knowledge ― it’s also about socialising. You can’t teach interaction, teamwork and empathy via Zoom. Especially with young children. And often what they want most is to get offline, not to receive a new laptop or tablet.

    It’s also clear now that online learning doesn’t provide the same quality of knowledge. PISA test results are not in yet, but from what I know so far, they are disastrous.

    You probably have some kind of medium-term action plan. How do you see the situation in a year or two?

    This depends very much on the region, but temporary schools seem to be a widespread solution. Rebuilding school buildings that have been destroyed will take many years.

    Recently, we’ve turned a village cultural centre into a school near Kyiv. It feels like this will be the only proper educational facility there for at least five years. The school building will be rebuilt with the help of the European Investment Bank, and, as I am told, the bureaucracy process there is painfully slow.

    Lviv in the summer of 2023 has the vibe of a holiday resort. Here, air-raid alarms are rare, and I have this feeling of stability and safety that most Ukrainians have forgotten. This is the place where I sleep well.

    When I was there two weeks ago, I was struck by the bustling restaurants, bright souvenir shops, street performers and market stalls. This was in stark contrast to Kyiv, Dnipro, Odesa, not to mention Kharkiv, which is shelled almost daily by the Russians.

    In wartime, west Ukraine has become a safe haven for many from regions closer to Russian troops or falling rockets. People go there to recover, and to get some rest from stress and threats. Some establishments near the precious mineral water springs are booked out well into October. This has never happened before. And that is a blessing.

    Not only do civilians recover in Lviv, but also military personnel. Several clinics in the region have been converted into rehabilitation centres, and the biggest prosthetics facility called Unbroken is also here. The land forces academy and army units are located in the city, and the military often observe the jubilant civilian life without fascination.

    “Here are so many wounded people and soldiers, who are spending a free day before they are sent to the frontline. If a soldier visits a bar, he sees many tourists, men of his age, resting, having fun, and drinking alcohol. They won’t risk their lives tomorrow, but he will,” my former colleague who was mobilised and had training in Lviv, desperately said.

    But many comrades at the frontline see this situation as natural and even positive. As MP-turned-soldier Yehor Firsov said: “When I see a full restaurant, it feels so good. We maintain the front so that they can continue to live a life.”

    Nine political parties with the words ‘communist’, ‘socialist’ and ‘left’ in their names have been banned in Ukraine since its independence in 1991. Six of them were forced to suspend their activities after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine began.

    In a post-Soviet state, Ukraine’s leftists often have ties to Russia and even promote a pro-Moscow agenda. Now this position has backfired on them.

    The ricochet has also hit Ukrainian society: now there are no political parties with well-established leftist policies. Centrist and right-wing parties don’t tend to pay enough attention to issues such as social equality or workers’ rights. Therefore, quality discussions on these topics are currently not on Ukraine’s political agenda.

    If all sounds but human voices ceased to exist, what was heard in Ukraine in the wake of the NATO Vilnius summit would be a deep sigh. Those of the older generation probably said: “We’ve been here before.”

    In 2008 at another NATO summit Ukraine received a vague reply to its membership aspirations, which can be summarised as: “You are definitely welcome some time in the future.”

    This position infuriated and empowered one person wanting to conquer Ukraine and other former Soviet and Eastern Bloc states ― Vladimir Putin. He understood that he could lose influence over these countries “some time in the future”. 

    Logically, the Russian president realised the time to act was sooner rather than later ― and started testing the West. Four months and four days after the 2008 summit, Russia invaded Georgia. This short war showed that invasions are still possible in Europe, as well as impunity for waging them. “It’s horrible if you think about this,” my then-editor at the Ukrainian daily newspaper told me. “And who’s next, if not us?”

    He was right. Putin unleashed war against Ukraine six years later.

    Now the story seems to be the same: NATO is still irresolute. But I feel optimistic.

    It’s understandable that if NATO accepted Ukraine now, it would have to compromise its principle of defending a member who is under attack. Too many NATO states oppose sending troops to Ukraine, and to compromise on this issue would erode the alliance’s future. If NATO introduced a concrete plan for Ukraine membership, Putin would know how to make its achievement impossible. 

    So that is why this slight disappointment makes me optimistic: if there is no plan, Ukraine can theoretically join NATO anytime. Also, this messes up Putin’s plans. Once he’s weak enough ― we will probably get in. And he’s getting weaker.

    This is the number of times Kyiv’s public workers have painted over a specific line of graffiti, while leaving its neighbouring words and pictures intact.

    The graffiti asked in Ukrainian “Who do you call when the police murder?”. This first appeared on 16 September, 2019, against the backdrop of numerous reports of unsanctioned police violence. The graffiti has constantly been restored by activists, and spread to other large Ukrainian cities.

    As the full-scale Russian invasion started, the reputation of the police improved drastically: many officers are on the frontline, defending their country and sacrificing their lives. But the problem of police impunity still needs to be addressed.

    After the full-scale war in Ukraine started, six biking organisations in Ukraine launched an international campaign #BikesForUkraine. Now they collect foreign donations to help deliver bicycles to war-torn communities. Initiative participant Maryna Bludsha tells more.

    Why does Ukraine need more bicycles?

    In times of hostilities, road networks and public transports system become ruined: some buses catch fire, or are stolen by invaders, such as in Kherson. Also, there’s often lack of fuel. Thus, a bicycle becomes the only reliable mode of transport. Right after Russia’s full-scale invasion began, we started receiving requests for bikes. People still need more than we can provide: as of June 11, we have given 1,391 bikes to local communities in Ukraine, but we have requests for 2,974.

    We often give bikes to volunteers who distribute medicine, goods and food. Also, there are doctors, social workers and local authorities who need bikes. These are mostly from war-torn regions, but we also help other communities which have many internally displaced persons and need to provide more services.

    Who provides the donations?

    Most help comes from the EU countries, which includes 40 out of 50 of our key supporters, especially Germany, The Netherlands and Lithuania ― people or organisations help with either money, so we can to buy new bicycles in Ukraine, or they collect bikes from locals in their area. Often they also repair the bikes before sending them to Ukraine. Our Berlin partners, Changing Cities, have organised bike repair gatherings, so people could help Ukraine in this way.

    In the first days of Russia’s full-scale invasion, Kyiv cyclists organised a volunteer service to deliver urgent aid. Do you know any other examples of how bicycles can be useful in war?

    In Kyiv we have a bike courier company called CargoCult, which also delivers goods to people and organisations in need. Traffic in the city was jammed at checkpoints and in queues, and bikes turned out to be the fastest way to get around.

    Helping corrupt officials avoid punishment, “burying” laws, enjoying an inexplicably luxurious lifestyle on his modest state salary are just a few things of which Ukrainian judge Pavlo Vovk is suspected.

    In 2010 ― at the age of only 31 ― he headed the District Administrative Court of Kyiv, an entity responsible for solving disputes with state officials and structures. This court decided whether a law adopted by the Ukrainian parliament could be put into practice, or whether a decision to ban a political party financed by Russia was legal. Vovk could influence such cases and, according to state prosecutors, he took advantage of his position.

    Ukrainian anti-corruption authorities published several tapped recordings of Vovk’s conversations. They are full of phrases such as “I’m totally for any lawlessness in the Ukrainian court system” and others which imply he can act on the wishes of this or that top politician.

    Pavlo Vovk admits these recordings are true. But he says the accusations are no more than an attempt at revenge. Ukrainian anti-corruption bodies are trying to influence the court, because many of the cases they started have been stuck there. When asked why, he said: “I am strong, and the court is independent.”

    “Vovk” means “wolf” in Ukrainian, which was a gift for headline writers, who titled articles “Living by wolf rules” or “Wolf justice”. His court was popularly called “the justice shop”. For years, he was notorious and untouchable.

    Despite all the hatred, protests and legal suspicions against him, Vovk kept his post until late 2022. Different presidents ― Victor Yanukovych, Petro Poroshenko, Volodymyr Zelenskyy ― answered questions about him and his court with vagueness and a lack of decision. He seemed to be too influential and useful. Finally, on 9 December last year, the USA imposed sanctions on Vovk “for soliciting bribes in return for interfering in judicial and other public processes”. After this, the war-torn and West-dependent Ukrainian state finally gave up Vovk ― by disbanding the court.

    Now part of Vovk’s routine is attending hearings against him. These cases are also stuck in the judicial system.

    This Sunday, at the French tennis open Roland-Garros, a scandal occurred. The audience booed Ukrainian tennis player Marta Kostyuk after she refused to shake hands with her opponent, Aryna Sabalenka, of Belarus. The crowd on the tribunes perceived this as a sign of disrespect. This was not the case.

    In modern times, sport has always been a symbol of common ground, fair play, rule-abiding and aspiration, despite state borders. International competitions underline the statement that all humanity is one large family. This was especially visible in the tournaments of post-USSR countries, where nations had a shared past, one language that everyone understands and common training methods, which created a warm and welcoming atmosphere.

    But what happens when one of these countries tries to erase another?

    Since the Russian aggression against Ukraine started in 2014, the approach that “sport is outside of politics” became quite popular among Ukrainians. For two reasons: first, there still was a feeling of kinship inside the sport community. Second, in prosperous Moscow, everything was “citius, altius, fortius” – faster, higher, stronger.

    The prospect of higher incomes and better careers pushed many Ukrainian professionals to seek out Russia as a location for their training and development. Though any wins of Ukrainians over Russians were considered almost military victories: the nation was triumphant.

    Since last year, when Russia’s intention to annihilate Ukraine became perfectly clear, the idea of the two countries working together in sport, art ― or, actually, any discipline ― became a no-go for most Ukrainians.

    But many international sports federations haven’t excluded Russians or Belarusians, as Minsk is Russia’s official ally in this war. So Ukrainians still face them as opponents, and leaving world tournaments would effectively end their careers. But there are no hugs, no smiles, and no handshakes.

    Kostyuk said that before the match she was following the news from Kyiv, where her father is living. The Ukrainian capital suffered its most critical drone attack. Aryna Sabalenka stated that, at first, she thought the boos from the Paris crowd were addressed to her. She understands everything.

    “Are there any emotional sentences, loaded statements, rhetorical devices in the given text? Please identify, tokenise and list all of them.”

    The text in the picture above is an answer to the prompt given to ChatGPT by the President of the Kyiv School of Economics Tymofiy Mylovanov in a masterclass dedicated to using AI to detect and combat disinformation. The text in question was a study by the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland about Western businesses who remained in Russia after its 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

    “Uncovering and busting disinformation is one of the significant challenges Ukraine is facing. If you choose the prompts carefully, ChatGPT can analyse massive amounts of information ― not as well as trained humans, but in just a few minutes,” says Mylovanov.

    New AI tools have a positive image in Ukraine and are used in distance learning, business meetings, budget compiling and in warfare. On the other hand, officials and experts are calling for the development of a policy on ChatGPT usage. And there are some disappointments: when ChatGPT answers to users with narratives that echo Russian propaganda.