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The Drone War: The War in Ukraine (Update on the Months September-November 2023)

To read previous blogs on the Russian invasion of Ukraine click here.

Thirty-two years ago this month, on the 1 December 1991, the people of Ukraine voted for independence from the Soviet Union. This was part of the wider exodus of nations from the Soviet Union. To read more about this era read the blog – Click Here

Today, the war in Ukraine continues on and with no real changes to the situation, there seems to be still no end in sight.

Almost every day drone attacks, or counter offensives using drones are reported in the war. Both sides are using these remotely piloted modern creations to continue a war that seems never ending. While there are no major numerical casualties in each incident, there are always victims.

In almost every report of a drone attack, at least one person is killed while the number of buildings destroyed is always of significant note. This type of warfare seems to be the true meaning of a stalemate with innocent citizens suffering the consequences.

Air strikes continue by Russian forces across Ukraine however the Kherson Oblast seems to continue as the main target. Also, directly in the Russian and Ukrainian firing line is the Donetsk region, which maintains its declaration of independence.

The city of Kharkiv also continues to suffer its share of Russian attacks and so in early October Ukraine announced its intentions to build the world’s first underground school here due to its location to the Russian border. An underground school, it is hoped, will make attending school safer for local children and help to halter distractions from learning.

Recently, on 25 November, Russia launched what is thought to possibly be the largest drone attack since the invasion began, with 75 drones launched on Kiev. All bar one were shot down by Ukrainian forces however the six-hour attack did see damage to the city as well as injuries to at least five people including children when a nursery was hit.

While Russia continues to target Ukrainian soil, Ukraine have turned their attention to the Russian Fleet in the Black Sea, especially those vessels near Crimea.

In the last few months, the largest impact of a Ukrainian offensive in the Russian held areas, occurred on 17 October when 21 helicopters were destroyed with dozens of Russian soldiers wounded and killed in airstrikes on Berdiansk and Luhansk. This offensive occurred just days after Ukraine received new weapons from the USA, with these weapons proving to be effective.

A few weeks later, for a 24-hour period on 1-2 November, 118 locations in Ukraine were bombarded by Russian artillery. Three days later, on 5 November, Russia launched an attack on Odesa which injured eight people and caused significant harm to the city, including damage to the Odesa Fine Arts Museum. Located within the Potocki Palace it was reported that artworks were ripped from the walls as windows exploded. Despite the destruction to the building the Museum has reported that none of its 10,000 piece collection was damaged. The attack was timely as the Museum celebrated its 124th birthday that same day, having been founded in 1899. The destruction to the city may have been greater if Ukraine hadn’t managed to shoot down at least 15 Russian missiles.

Odesa Fine Arts Museum after the Russian air strike, 5-6 November 2023 (Source: Ministry of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine)

Museums are often not immune from world affairs and politics despite supposedly being places of neutrality that record the history of humankind.

A few days ago, a decade-long dispute over ancient Ukrainian artefacts (many from the 4th century BC when the Greeks colonised Crimea) finally came to an end with over 500 items returned to Ukraine, albeit not to the Museum’s they were originally sourced from.

These items of significance to the history of Ukraine had been held by Amsterdam’s Allard Pierson Museum after there were issues with their return.

Most of the items had been sourced from four Museum’s in Crimea (and one Museum in Kiev) by the Dutch Museum but when it came time to return them to Ukraine the political situation had changed. Russia had invaded Crimea in 2014 which meant that the organisations were no longer in Ukrainian territory.

In 2021 a Dutch court ruled that the objects belonged to Ukraine, not one institution and therefore should be returned to the country not the Museum’s from which the items had been sourced as they were no longer under Ukrainian control.

After appeals by the Crimean Museum’s (backed by Russia), a court ruled they were to be returned to the Kiev History Museum.

Having worked in various organisations where issues of ownership have been problematic, especially on loaned material, I can only image how difficult this was for the Curator’s of the Allard Pierson Museum to manage. Likewise, I can understand the anguish of the Museum’s in Crimea who agreed to the loan these items, not realising, that the actions of Russia would ultimately see the items lost to their collections. Indeed, it is always heart-breaking for all sides when politics interferes with the work of Museum’s.

Golden items that were loaned to the Allard Pierson Museum and have remained the issue of contested ownership for over a decade, (Source: Allard Pierson Museum, Amsterdam)

In other cultural news, on 7 September UNESCO approved the addition of twenty Ukrainian landmarks onto the World Heritage Register with the hope that this would deter Russian attacks on the sites. Two of the sites; The Saint Sophia Cathedral and the historic centre of L’viv were added to the list of World Heritage sites in danger due to threat of a possible Russian attack. These two sites join the historic centre of Odesa which was listed as in danger earlier this year in January.

Russia continues to face scrutiny by the world due to its actions in Ukraine. In mid-September the Wagner Group was declared a terrorist organisation by the UK, while Russia was officially suspended by the International Olympic Committee after the Russian Olympic Committee recognised the Olympic Committees of Ukrainian regions that are currently occupied by Russia. In the United Nations investigation into alleged Russian war crimes, further evidence was found of torture, rape and the deportation of children to Russia in the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia Oblasts.

The atrocities of war continue and with the worst of winters weather hitting some of the long-suffering towns and villages there appears to be no reprise. In recent days heavy snow has blanketed much of the region causing loss of electricity and some weather-related deaths.

Just when many thought it couldn’t get any worse, Mother Nature had other ideas. While the world prepares for Christmas, I’m sure we can all agree an end to the war is on the wish-list of everyone.

Passengers are evacuated from a vehicle stuck in heavy snow in Ukraine, 29 November 2023 (Ukraine's Department Emergency Services).


Further Reading:

*This blog has been put together with multiple current news sources such as the BBC World News Podcast and local nightly news and media outlets.

Articles and Websites:

Disclaimer: The observations and comments made in this blog are made after reflecting on the news stories and histories I read. History plays a big part in how I understand the present so my comments largely take into account history and the role it has in the present. After all, those who do not learn from history are destined to repeat it.

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