Learning the lessons of Ukraine

Ukraine is often referred to as a laboratory when it comes to global environmental, information and security challenges.

The site of the worst nuclear disaster in history, the prime target of the Kremlin’s troll farms and disinformation campaigns, the country that would trigger the collapse of the Soviet Union and resist its neo-imperialist successor: Ukraine was the first to confront it, at times setting processes in motion , which have global consequences.

Read: The Kiev thicket

Read: Black, white and colourless.

In the eight years that Russia has been waging its undeclared war against Ukraine, the international community has appeased the aggressor amid fears of a nuclear strike.


For eight years, Ukrainians have been warning the world of a different kind of nuclear threat: 15 Ukrainian nuclear reactors, six of which are perilously close to the front lines in the southeastern Zaporizhia region.

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The world finally learned to pronounce the name of this region in March, when the Russian military shelled and occupied the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, the largest in Europe.

It has now been cold shut down after regular shelling. Its employees work under threat of torture and death at the hands of the occupiers.

On September 19, Russia launched a missile attack on the industrial site of the nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine. The missile exploded 300 meters from the reactors of the country’s second largest nuclear power plant.

Radioactive plumes are notorious for crossing borders: should an accident occur in the militarized nuclear power plant, the consequences would not be contained within Ukraine.

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With the full-scale invasion of Russia jeopardizing the global security system, the value of Ukrainian knowledge and experience can no longer be dismissed. The urgency to learn from Ukraine is now existential for the rest of the world.


Ukraine Lab is an online writing residency for emerging writers from Ukraine and the UK tasked with exploring global challenges through the prism of Ukraine.

The thematic focus of the creative non-fiction books by Kateryna Iakovlenko and Jonathon Turnbull is the environment. They go beyond immediate concerns related to Russia’s nuclear terrorism and shed light on Ukraine’s environmental aspects that are still being overlooked.

The Kiev thickets drift through the wild and strange green spaces of the Ukrainian capital, brimming with political potential. Black, white and colorless tells the story of the war-ravaged industrial region in the east of the country based on the elements that shaped it: coal, salt and gas.

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The Ukraine Lab is run by the Ukraine Institute London in partnership with PEN Ukraine and the Ukraine Institute. It is supported by the British Council as part of the UK/UA Season of Culture 2022.

You can read The Kiev thicket and Black, white and colourless in Ukrainian at УП Життя. Articles from the Ukraine Lab focusing on the war will be published in ME Online while the pieces against disinformation will appear open democracy.

This author

dr Sasha Dovzhyk is Curator of Special Projects at the Ukrainian Institute London and Curator of the Ukraine Lab.

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