- Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences
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Just about a year ago, explosions across Kyiv woke Tymofiy Mylovanov. The Feb. 24 assault commenced Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has since resulted in the death of tens of thousands of noncombatants, a growing refugee crisis and uncertainty for civilians and government officials across the globe.
Unfortunately, the University of Pittsburgh associate professor of economics says the nightmarish experience still mirrors daily life for the citizens who remain.
Mylovanov, who is also a Ukraine native and president of the Kyiv School of Economics, stayed in the country to advise the office of the president and share his expertise as the nation’s previous economics minister to aid his people and the school.
His access and knowledge have made him a leading voice on the war for Forbes, The New York Times, CNN and other publications worldwide. But his decision to openly discuss and document the everyday lives of Ukrainians from market and economic changes in the context of a haircut — a simple joy made complex during wartime — to political corruption, have endeared him to 44,000 Twitter followers.
Ahead of the first anniversary of the invasion and nearly a year after he explained the causes and consequences of the war, Pittwire asked him to share what this year has entailed and where he intends to go from here.
Did you expect the war to last this long?
Yes, and I actually think the war is going to last some more years. We are trying to survive as a nation, and I think we are doing quite well given the size and determination of the adversary. It’s tough. A lot of people die. We’ll just have to persevere.
When we first spoke last year, you explained why the war started. Why is it ongoing?
There were some expectations by special Western politicians, and I kind of agreed, that there was going to be a large, decisive battle, then negotiations. There have been at least three now: Kyiv, Kharkiv and Kherson. But it doesn't appear to be changing anything.
My view is that, essentially, Putin cannot take politically, domestically, the loss. It was a major mistake and disaster for Russia to invade Ukraine. That's going to isolate Russia for years, for decades; impose huge losses and damage on the population of Russia, the future of Russia and prospects. Putin simply cannot admit that because, politically, he will be done if that happens. That's why he's doubling down, as most dictators do. They go down fighting until the very last moment.
Who is winning the war?
There have been three major battles — Kyiv, Kherson and Kharkiv — and all were won by Ukraine. Last winter, Ukraine successfully resisted an attempt to surround and take over Kyiv. In the late summer, there was a Kharkiv offensive and in the late fall, there was Kherson — the only regional capital that was taken by Russia during the previous offensive. They abandoned it because they couldn't keep it. Russia is now pushing and sending tens of thousands of people to die in Bakhmut and in east Ukraine, but we'll see how it goes. In my view, Ukraine is winning, but Ukraine has not recaptured all its territory. It’s going to be a long process.
How do you feel about how the rest of the world has responded?
We have seen a lot of support, [which] materializes in three areas: sanctions, military and financial aid and, of course, political. That support is great, but often late and short. This recent example about the tanks is exactly the case in point. Germany was refusing to give tanks only to later say that they're going do it. I just don't understand because, in the end, everything can be given, but somehow, it's later and after so many people die. It's just not right.
Who’s been most impacted?
Everyone. Everyone is traumatized in so many ways, but of course, soldiers, civilians in the cities, children, refugees IDPs (internally displaced peoples).
People make a choice in Russia, you know. Those who didn't want to participate in this war left the country or refused. There are always consequences for making the right choice. People [whose] decision [was] to go to the war, they are affected but they have agency, they realize what they're doing. They go to a different country and kill civilians and try to take land and engage in war crimes, torture and rape. Of course, they are affected, but they shouldn't be doing this.
What does everyday life look like for those who remained?
You have a European capital like Kyiv, where I live. I was just in a pretty good restaurant, and then it gets a blackout because our infrastructure is damaged. Yesterday people were killed in Kyiv and in other cities of Ukraine by Russian missiles. Imagine something like Israel, but on steroids, where you can get attacked or blown up anytime. I'm not even talking about the front-line cities where they're shelled all the time.
I'll give you an example. We have this village, which was liberated, and they have a school. Russians stole their school buses, and these kids built a makeshift shed at the cemetery because that’s where they could get access to a telecom network to have internet to watch the news and to study. We provided them with starlinks (a satellite internet technology). They’re 20 kilometers from the Russian border. They get attacked daily, but they're eager to continue to study. They’re survivors.
What motivates you to document these experiences on Twitter and elsewhere every day?
I’m sharing because I want to explain to the world what the reality is. I don’t want our true voices from the ground to be lost in media or through intermediaries. What I’ve learned in the war is that essentially, no one trusts anyone, because the standard ways of getting information don’t work; it’s just the fog of war. What works is eyewitness accounts, so I started writing about the daily lives of our students, a father of kids, IDPs, refugees to show to people how life is.
What's next for you, for the nation?
Keep working. Pragmatically, I have a difficult decision. I am on faculty and the work continues. Technically, I cannot leave the country for a long period without a permit, and my Pitt sabbatical is over sometime in the summer. I need to figure out how to either extend it or do something about it [but] here, I have to continue to run the (Kyiv) school. The war is going to go on for quite a while. We need the resources to keep going. That’s important. So that’s pressure.
What’s next is to think about how we can be more useful, how we can help our students be successful, how we can help the government, how we can help the military, how we can help the society, IDPs, veterans who are coming back.
The role of universities is huge during the wartime. We have the privilege of being in academia and being protected from many, many pressures that otherwise would have been crushing us. So, we have to use this opportunity to show leadership and to demonstrate some kind of hope and guidance, at least to the young generation.
I would like to stay with Pitt, of course. If the war were over, then I would go back. But if the war is not over in the summer, then I might not be able to legally do that.
Is there anything else you'd like readers to know?
I just call for support. Support our students if you can. We’re very, very grateful for that.
For those looking for ways to help Ukraine, Mylovanov recommended these humanitarian efforts:
- The Kyiv School of Economics humanitarian aid campaign
- Nova Ukraine
- The Ukrainian Red Cross Society
- Razom for Ukraine
- United Help Ukraine
- Voices of Children Foundation
- Save Life of Ukraine
— Kara Henderson, photo via Getty Images