Down the road from Donetsk is the port of Mariupol, home to two of Ukraine’s biggest steel factories. Mariupol, on the Azov Sea, has previously shipped its exports to Bulgaria, Italy and Turkey, but Russia now controls Crimea’s Kerch Strait, a narrow sea lane connecting the Azov and Black seas. It has also captured practically all of Ukraine’s navy. Will Mariupol still be able to function as a port?
“The honest answer is that nobody knows,” said Vladislav Mazur, a lecturer at Mariupol’s Pryazovskyi State Technical University.
Mazur said the problems with Ukraine’s economy were profound, predate the latest crisis and were possibly insoluble.
Some factories have moved with the times and improved their ecological standards, but most still rely on Soviet-era equipment and production processes.
“Not much has been modernized. Nobody cares about the quality of products,” Mazur said.
Foreign investment might be able to transform crumbling industries, but this would take time, he added.
Ultimately, could Ukraine’s industrial base — caught between East and West — survive and prosper in the modern world?
“Ukraine isn’t the modern world,” Mazur said gloomily.