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Bringing the story of Babyn Yar back to life

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In 1961, sixteen years after the end of World War Two, Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtuschenko wrote his haunting work Babyn Yar, which mournfully and famously opens with the line: “No monument stands over Babyn Yar.” Indeed, a visit to the scenic park which now marks the area of Babyn Yar in Ukraine’s capital Kyiv gives little indication of the horror which unfolded there just over 79 years ago. Just days after the Nazis occupied Kyiv in September 1941, around 34,000 of the city’s Jews were marched to the Babyn Yar ravine and were callously shot dead over a two-day period. It became a seminal moment, ushering in the mass shooting of around 1.5 million Jews in Eastern Europe. Later large-scale killings at the same site saw the Nazis also murder tens of thousands of Ukrainian political opponents, Russian prisoners, Roma, mentally ill and others. Babyn Yar is Europe’s largest mass grave.

Yet until now, the Babyn Yar story has largely gone untold. As the poet Yevtuschenko bravely publicized, decades of Soviet attempts to mask the past, to hide a history which didn’t comply with the prevailing Communist narrative, left Babyn Yar bereft of any meaningful memorial to the multitude of Jewish victims, killed purely because of their Jewishness. Today, the sole reminder is a modest Menorah (Jewish candelabra) monument installed shortly after Ukrainian independence. Things are finally about to change though, with the development of the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center (BYHMC). The project will comprise a world-class Holocaust museum, the first in the region, which is set to utilize innovative technologies to engage and educate a new generation. Although the museum’s doors are unlikely to open until 2026, BYHMC is already very actively perpetuating the memory of the Babyn Yar massacre. Twelve research and education projects are in full swing, giving people the opportunity to discover and learn more.

Meanwhile, BYHMC has also developed powerful physical reminders of the tragedy which unfolded, for all those who visit the site.  In September, on the 79th anniversary of the massacre, in the presence of Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, BYHMC unveiled three brand new outdoor memorials at Babyn Yar. Together, the three installations combine powerful audio and visual elements, giving the visitor a multi-sensory and thought-provoking experience.

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BYHMC’s artistic director Ilya Khrzanovskiy puts its succinctly, “Hard facts in the form of documentary evidence are just one way to tell a story.” He believes that an emotional experience is critical. “It is this emotive connection that can really make an impact and ensure that historical lessons are learned,” he added.

One of the new installations is the striking Mirror Field, featuring ten six-foot high steel columns. Visual artist Denis Shibanov was responsible for developing the monument. He says that the central idea came to him immediately. Each column is marked with a cascade of bullet holes. In total, the ten columns contain 100,000 bullet holes, representing the individual lives of the 100,000 or so people murdered in total at Babyn Yar. Beyond the numerical significance and the shocking visual effect, Shibanov wants the bullet holes to have a reflective impact on the visitor. “When a person comes close, they can see the reflection of their own face next to a bullet hole – In other words, any of us could be the potential victim.” However, night brings a note of hope, as the columns are illuminated, sending shards of light into the sky.

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The top of each column has been exploded and so as visitors gaze upwards, they are confronted with a mess of tangled steel against the backdrop of the sky. Shibanov hopes that the striking contrast evokes a duality of emotions. He said, “Hopefully, there is a mixture of feelings. Horror and hope for the future. Cold. Empty space. The horror of what human beings can do. On the other hand, the sky gives hope.”

The visual impact of the columns is complemented by a powerful audio experience. An organ made of plastic drain pipes has been installed underneath the Mirror Field. "The drainpipe organ" was conceived and designed by Ukrainian multi-media artist Maksym Demydenko. This electro-acoustic organ is comprised of 24 plastic drainage pipes of various diameters and lengths and features internal speakers tuned to different frequencies. Reproducing sound frequencies through this organ, which correspond to the numerical value of victims’ names calculated from Hebrew letters, creates a mixture of resonances and reflections. In Demydenko's words “a miraculous piece of music is constantly emanating in tribute to the memory of the victims of Babyn Yar”.

The second new installation is the collection of Monoculars. The name itself gives some sense of the visual and emotional journey to come. Two types of monoculars have been installed. One version, positioned around the Mirror Field’s perimeter, are a series of red granite structures, each evoking a silhouette. At each monocular, the visitor can read biographical details of a Babyn Yar victim and piece together the life that was lost. As Shibanov explains, these monoculars are intended to encourage empathy with the victims. “The silhouettes created by these monoculars are shaped like a target on a firing range. In other words, when the visitor confronts them, not only do they learn about the victims, but they ponder how each and every one of us is a potential target.” Ultimately, says Shibanov, “There is a life behind each silhouette. Visitors can ask themselves, what school did they attend? What did their house look like?”

The second version of the monocular is a similarly undefined shape, made from rough red granite. Each of these 15 statues is positioned at the exact point where Nazi military photographer Johannes Hahle took 15 photographs of Babyn Yar in October 1941. Through a viewfinder embedded in each statue, visitors can see the photograph as recorded by Hahle. The monocular becomes a window into the past through the eyes of those responsible for its horrors.

The final new memorial is the Menorah Monument Audio Walk. 32 specially installed pillars line the 300-meter path from the main road towards Babyn Yar’s existing Menorah monument. The audio walk takes the visitor on an experiential journey. Emanating from each pillar are voices, young and old, men and women, reading the names of the 19,000 victims of the Babyn Yar massacre who have been identified so far. Each speaker operates from an independent audio channel. As a result, the direction and speed of each visitor as they walk, creates a unique audio experience. Demydenko came up with the concept, saying he wanted “to find a way to read the names of the innocent victims” in the midst of Babyn Yar’s expanse.

Demydenko added another audio element as visitors get closer to the Menorah. The names of the dead are joined by the traditional Jewish prayer for the souls of the departed. At the culmination of the walk, another Jewish song is introduced, a 1920s recording sung by a Kyiv-trained cantor. It is a reminder of the vibrant Jewish world that was so tragically obliterated.

The three new installations are a key part of BYHMC’s commitment towards providing a multi-dimensional experience to learn history. By engaging multiple senses, they ensure that the horror of Babyn Yar can resonate and speak to people for generations to come. The Museum promises to continue this process, combining research with technology and ultimately playing an important role as the world grapples to preserve the memory of the Holocaust. As the survivors of humanity’s darkest hour continue to dwindle, it will serve as a timely and thought-provoking memorial to one of the Holocaust’s most shocking episodes. In the words of Denis Shibanov: “I want people to understand that every person is a world and every killing was the destruction of an entire world.” In this spirit, the three new monuments represent a significant step towards finally answering the poet Yevtuschenko’s lament more than half a century ago, that a memorial should indeed stand at Babyn Yar.

Energy

Continuing on Ukraine's path to a green energy future

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Green finance continues to develop at pace in leading economies and emerging markets. However, the climate emergency is also rapidly developing, with wildfires ravaging the globe and torrential flooding sweeping across our neighbours in central Europe, writes Kyrylo Shevchenko, governor of the National Bank of Ukraine.

Rising global food and energy prices, the recovery of the global economy from the COVID-19 crisis, the effects of poorer harvests, and further growth in consumer demand through higher wages are all pushing prices up for both businesses and consumers.

While the pressures of global warming and climate change remain high on the agenda of major global players such as the United States, China, and the UK, this does not mean those in the emerging markets have made reducing their own carbon emissions and reaching their own goals any less of a priority. With COP26 fast approaching, governments are strengthening their commitments to slash carbon emissions in order to protect the environment and ensure that we leave the planet a healthier, more livable place for future generations.

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On the plus side, climate investments also have enormous potential. Indeed, the IFC estimates this potential at USD 23 trillion in emerging markets for the period up to 2030.

The National Bank of Ukraine (NBU) clearly understands that financial market regulators can make an urgent and important contribution to building a better future. Therefore, to send a powerful message to our stakeholders, and to build confidence in our commitment to developing a sustainable economy, we have included the promotion of sustainable finance as one of the key strategic goals in our Strategy 2025. Moreover, for the first time in the history of the NBU we have insisted on inclusion of environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations in our 2022 Monetary Policy Guidelines.

To fulfil our commitments, in April, the NBU signed a Cooperation Agreement with the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC), taking what I believe to be the first steps towards a green future for our country.

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Ahead of the signing, we both agreed on the drafting of strategies and standards for sustainable finance in Ukraine, committed to integrating ESG requirements in the corporate governance of banks, and promised to share expertise to build the central bank’s capacity for raising awareness about ESG issues.

In just five months, the NBU has taken major steps towards this goal, developing the basis of a roadmap to expand ESG, as well as the Sustainable Funding Strategy. The strategy, which will launch next month, will encourage those operating in Ukraine’s financial markets to incorporate the NBU’s vision of sustainable funding and ESG best practices in their plans for the years ahead, and to make preparations for regulatory changes.

Complimentary to this, between September and October next year the NBU will introduce new mechanisms in the supervisory and management boards of commercial banks to ensure ESG is a significant element in their strategies.

This will be fundamental to assessing the footprint of financial transactions and the effect of each banks’ operations on the environment and on society.

Perhaps the most important step the NBU is taking from the first half of 2023 will be to require commercial banks to consider ESG risks when deciding whether to provide financing to a potential client.

To bolster this requirement, the NBU will also require ESG reporting from banks, disclosing information to stakeholders about portfolios and operations, including corporate governance.

This move will put Ukraine in the vanguard of transparency when comes to reporting standards. Businesses and the general public will, for the first time, be able to compare the environmental ratings of Ukraine’s banks, allowing them to make more informed decisions, based on their own personal preferences. Environmental protection and greater sustainability can only be achieved if countries, their businesses, and their people work together – and we intend to give this power to Ukrainian citizens.

Whilst regulating the banking sector is the basis of what we do at the NBU, our sustainable development team will also be exploring ways to incorporate and build on green finance practices in the nonbank financial sector.

Our wholehearted commitment to greening Ukraine’s entire financial system has thus never been stronger, and the steps we are taking prove this.

At the same time, the NBU is under no illusions: The climate crisis continues to rapidly affect our planet and our way of life.

We understand that we are still at the very beginning of a long journey towards a sustainable global economy. But by continuing carefully along this path, and learning from our partners, we firmly believe that we can be a leader in the emerging markets space in ESG best practices, which will benefit both Ukraine and the planet.

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Ukraine

EU-Ukraine summit: Moving forward together

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On 12 October, at the 23rd EU-Ukraine Summit in Kyiv, the European Union and Ukraine reaffirmed their strong partnership and commitment to strengthening the political association and economic integration of Ukraine with the European Union.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Council President Charles Michel and High Representative/Vice President of the European Commission Josep Borrell represented the European Union alongside Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The European Union and Ukraine agreed on a Joint Statement, demonstrating the richness of the bilateral agenda.

President Ursula von der Leyen said: “The European Union attaches the utmost importance to its relations with Ukraine. Together we have built a special partnership, based on mutual solidarity and friendship. We share a commitment to strengthening the political association and economic integration of Ukraine with the European Union and progress has been made in many areas. We will continue to work together on the untapped opportunities that the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement has to offer. This, alongside continued unity on sanctions, shows the EU's commitment to Ukraine – one that remains unwavering”.

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High Representative/Vice President Josep Borrell added: “The EU is Ukraine's strongest and most reliable strategic partner. At today's summit we also reconfirm the EU's continued political support for its sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as non-recognition policy of the illegal annexation of Crimea. The EU will continue to stand firm in its support the implementation of the Minsk agreements.”

Read the full remarks of President von der Leyen at the joint press conference here.

In the margins of the Summit, the European Union and Ukraine made progress in a number of key sectors of cooperation, with three new important agreements.

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Signing of a milestone aviation agreement

The European Union and Ukraine signed a comprehensive air transport agreement, opening the way for a ‘Common Aviation Area' between the EU and Ukraine, based on common high standards in important areas such as aviation safety, security and air traffic management. It will foster market access and offer new opportunities for consumers and airlines on both sides.

Ukraine is an increasingly important aviation market for the EU, since it was the 13th largest extra-EU market in 2019, with 9.8 million passengers. Air transport for passengers, as well as for cargo between Ukraine and the EU, has been growing steadily in recent years. This trend was only interrupted during the COVID crisis.

The agreement signed today aims to gradually open the respective aviation markets and integrate Ukraine into a wider European Common Aviation Area. Ukraine will further align its legislation with EU aviation rules and standards in areas such as aviation safety, air traffic management, security, the environment, economic regulation, competition, consumer protection and social aspects.

Today's Agreement is expected to offer new air transport opportunities, more direct connections and economic benefits to both sides:

  • All EU airlines will be able to operate direct flights from anywhere in the EU to any airport in Ukraine, and vice versa for Ukrainian airlines.
  • All limitations and restrictions on flights between Ukraine and the EU will be removed and the provisions on open and fair competition will guarantee a level playing field.

The Agreement will facilitate people-to-people contacts and expand commercial opportunities and trade between the EU and Ukraine. It will also be a valuable instrument in the implementation of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement and, in particular, the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area.

While the Agreement still needs to be ratified by both sides before formally entering into force, it will start to apply from today's signature.

Association of Ukraine to Horizon Europe

The Summit also provided the opportunity to finalise the association of Ukraine to Horizon Europe, the EU research and innovation programme for 2021-2027, as well as the Euratom Research and Training Programme for 2021-2025. Ukrainian researchers and innovators can now participate in those two programmes, with a budget of €95.5 billion and €1.38bn respectively, under the same conditions as entities from EU member states. This co-operation in science, research and innovation further strengthens the alliance between the EU and Ukraine to deliver on common priorities, such as the twin green and digital transition. Horizon Europe is one of the main tools to implement Europe's strategy for international cooperation: Europe's global approach to cooperation in research and innovation. The programme is open to researchers and innovators from around the world, who can team up with EU partners in preparing proposals.

Association of Ukraine to Creative Europe

During the Summit, the association of Ukraine to Creative Europe, the EU programme to support the cultural and creative sectors for the period for 2021-2027, was also finalised. The new Creative Europe programme continues to support and promote cultural heritage, creativity, internationalisation, professionalisation, innovation and competitiveness of the cultural and creative sectors. Ukrainian cultural and creative organizations can now participate in Europe's flagship €2.44bn programme, under the same conditions as entities from EU member states.

More information

EU-Ukraine relations factsheet

EU Delegation in Ukraine website

European Commission Support Group for Ukraine website

International aviation relations of the EU

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Ukraine

The challenge for Elon Musk

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A group of Ukrainian scientists has developed a unique bio battery with self charging capability, and successfully tested new unique bioaccumulators that have the ability to self-charge without an external energy source. In the experimental model, self-charging was repeated 20 times, with the sensational results of a successful experiment published in the international journal Batteries. 

Compared to modern electric vehicles with a range of 500-600 km, such bioaccumulators will provide the ability to travel without recharging 14,000 km. A self-recharging biobattery will be able to supply energy to an apartment building for a long time. The unique ability of the bioaccumulator to self-charge is able to make a revolutionary breakthrough in the energy market in strategic areas: shipping, railways, aviation and aerospace, namely in the programs of research of the Moon and Mars.

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