In April of 2019, I had the opportunity to visit Sumy National Agrarian University and Sumy State University in Sumy, Ukraine. It was a whirlwind tour, meeting with students and faculty from both institutions and at a Youth Forum in Trostyanets.
All the people I met were energetic and ready to take on new challenges and make a positive difference in the world. As Ukraine is pulled back into Russia, the world is losing access to the great energy and ideas these folks have to offer, just when we need them most. We need more people working on the big problems facing our small planet.
Sumy is (for now) under Russian control, and all those faculty, students, and kind people are either fleeing or sheltering. I have contacted several and hope they soon are welcomed into EU countries. There is not much that I can say here that has not been said elsewhere, but I want to take a minute to pass on some resources you might want to look into as this crisis continues to unfold.
Bellingcat is crowd-sourced/open-source intelligence group. This site/group rose to international prominence when they proved that Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 (MH17) was downed by the Russian military in 2014. For more background on Bellingcat, listen the Sway podcast: “How Online Sleuths Pantsed Putin”.
Bellingcat was one of the first to provide a report about misinformation (intentional and unintentional) related to the Russian invasion. Check out their main site for updates (and consider becoming a patron).
✈️ Flight Data 🇪🇺
You have probably seen maps on CNN and other outlets that show how commercial flights are routing around Ukraine (from Flight Radar or another site). Most of these sites rely on data from air-traffic control, which filters out the transponder data from military, police, and other government aircraft.
ADSBexchange.com website is a crowd-sourced site that provides unfiltered flight data collected from volunteers with radios listening to transponders. This allows you to see where most of the western military is flying.
Transponders are turned off for top-secret or combat operations, so this might not show everything, but you can see how the West monitors the situation on the ground from right outside Ukraine. (Adsbexchange also has a Discord server).
🛂 Border Closings on the Internet 🛑
Russia is attacking the infrastructure of Ukraine, including mobile data, landlines, and internet sites. This site allows you to see which areas are affected in detail.
Netblocks is also reporting that Russia is blocking internet access in Russia to quell anti-war protests and prevent news of the situation in Ukraine from reaching its citizens.
I have not gotten to writing up reviews of these books, but I will try to soon. However, I can highly recommend them:
- The Gates of Europe: A History of Ukraine by Serhii Plokhy (Amazon Link). An accessible and comprehensive history of Ukraine. The book’s sections include good maps of the borders in each time period.
- Strongmen: Mussolini to the Present by Ruth Ben-Ghiat (Amazon Link). An insightful, researched, and very well-written book. Ruth Ben-Ghiat outlines all the tricks in the authoritarian’s “playbook,” with good coverage of Putin. You can also find the author on twitter.
- Speaking of Twitter, this is a good list of sources to follow on Twitter for news (from Morning Brew). Unfortunately, it sounds like Twitter’s filters are too often closing the accounts of the wrong people.
- The Guns of August by Barbara W. Tuchman (Amazon Link). Tuchman’s fantastic book on how the world stumbled into WWI is an important lesson in misunderstanding and miscalculations.