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Tuesday 6 December 2022


Letter from Ukraine

By DJ Maughfling

From inside Ukraine, it is possible to feel the change of season. Gone are the autumn leaves laying on the ground, replaced by snow and biting winds. Winter is arriving in Zhytomyr, and this brings with it new challenges for Supersprox. The winter has brought a strategic shift in the actions of the Russian military.

I was in Ukraine on the first days of the war. That was a tough moment. I believe that most Ukrainians and much of the world imagined that Russian forces could swiftly pass through the land with the speed and efficiency associated with a superpower. Looking back, it is clear to see that things have turned out rather differently. And the Russian government seems to be bringing itself everything that it has been fighting to push away.

We lost power and installed a generator.

Whilst I try to avoid the war topic at work and focus on managing the business, it is impossible not to hear soundbites from time to time. In the western news, I can hear talk of the need for negotiation and the fear of waning support. However, the general opinion remains one of continued support of a Ukrainian nation that has been invaded by Russian forces. This assumes that Russia is fighting against Ukraine! But Putin's tone in his domestic speeches to the Russian people, and his actions, have changed recently. Now he says that his war is actually against America, NATO and Europe, not the people of Ukraine.

Presently, Putin's words and the words of the Russian state media are more about hatred of the West. Compared to the start of this war, he has changed the tone. In the first days he said that Russia was invading Ukraine to save the Russian minority from persecution and genocide. He specifically cited the Ukrainian Nazis, who he said were committing crimes against Russian minorities. 

Now he is intimating that all Ukrainians are brothers of one family, they need to be protected against America and NATO. He now says that the Ukrainian Nazis were, in fact, American and British infiltrators.

This brings us to the point where Russian artillery started shooting at Ukrainian infrastructure, which, due to the deadlock in the Southeast, seems to have come about at the Dnepr River. A physical barrier of water that neatly cuts through Ukraine from Chornobyl in the north, running south to the Black Sea, near Crimea and Odessa. The river crossing is making progress difficult for both sides to move.

Winter at Supersprox

And that is where the situation turned darker because the bombing of infrastructure is, clearly, connected to the retreat of Russian troops and the stall at the Dnepr. It appears to be stepping up to the next level, where troops move back and fire all sorts of munitions at Ukraine civilian infrastructure. Targeting infrastructure that supports the lives and wellbeing of ordinary Ukraine citizens, more than the Ukraine military. Targeting civilians in the winter! And all the time, Putin is claiming that he is saving Ukraine.

This tactic is surely not going to break the Ukrainian resolve. From what I noticed, the Ukrainian people become more determined every time the power, heat and water are lost. In the Supersprox factory the staff adapt to each new situation. If the power goes down, we can run off the generator, but with some limitations. Not all machines operate as they should and constant power spikes damage electronics. Our heating system was put out of action, bringing the working temperature in the factory below 10C (50F). Not a single person complained about the cold. There are no streetlights in the city, but I never hear people say that it is unacceptable.

We lost power and installed a generator. We lost city water supply and dug a well. We anticipate that the internet can be lost, so we are probably going to install Starlink satellite for internet. Every time the Russian war on Ukraine pushes us, we push back! And that is the same all over Ukraine.

Militarily, Russia is not able to overrun Ukraine. Bombing civilian infrastructure is making the people more resolved to throw out the invaders. Putin's threats against Finland and Sweden brought them swiftly to the NATO table.

From the start of the war, I have tried to keep away from expressing any political point of view. My goal was to support our Ukraine team and save the company, so that they would have something to do after the madness is finished. When I hear people in the West complaining about the cost of the war, and whether the West should be involved or not, I lose sleep.

As a British Citizen, working 11 years in Ukraine, I understand how different we are culturally. There is no way to politely withdraw from this war. Showing weakness and fear will only bring the troubles of the East to the citizens of the West. 

Putin is not a man who respects kindness. In his eyes, that is weakness to be immediately exploited.

I believe that we all have good times and bad times. It's what makes us, it defines who we are as people. This is a time to endure, and to make choices that will benefit future generations, even if we must suffer a little in the process. Otherwise, Russia will be at our borders and that could undermine global security for our children's lives.