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What It’s Like To Run A B-School In A War Zone

The top business school in Ukraine’s capital city is leading the effort to make Vladimir Putin pay.

Not on the battlefield — Ukraine’s defense forces are taking care of that. Instead, Kyiv School of Economics is spearheading a project to calculate the economic cost of Russia’s invasion of its neighbor — every collapsed bridge, every destroyed building, every bomb crater in a road or airport runway.

The “Russia Will Pay” project is a massive undertaking that will involve huge numbers: Preliminary estimates put the total value of damaged and destroyed objects in Ukraine at 14.8 trillion hryvnias, or $500 billion — a number that will certainly grow as long as the conflict lasts.

$5.9 MILLION RAISED SO FAR FOR HUMANITARIAN AID

KSE President Tymofiy Mylovanov: “We are shipping a substantive number” of supplies to emergency personnel and defense forces

Speaking to Poets&Quants from Kyiv in March, Tymofiy Mylovanov, KSE’s president, says his school has undertaken seven big projects for Ukraine’s government since the war began more than two weeks ago — though he can only talk publicly about two of them; the others involve intelligence gathering, supply chain and security assessments, and various other sensitive assignments. Many of the school’s analysts and researchers are now working in such capacities, Mylovanov says; many others are out fighting Russian troops. Naturally, the school’s normal class schedule has been disrupted, but “we are operational,” Mylovanov insists. “Those guys don’t want to study yet because they’re all fighting or doing something else,” he adds.

The first of KSE’s two publicly announced initiatives began early in the war that started with Russia’s invasion February 24. Coordinating with Ukrainian businesses and state-owned companies, the school launched a humanitarian aid campaign to provide food, medicine, and transportation for refugees who already were moving en masse westward, and whose numbers have only swelled in the days since. The campaign has simultaneously collected first aid and protective gear for emergency services personnel and Ukrainian Territorial Defense Forces — “to shield them,” the B-school announced, “against Russian aggression.” Through Friday, KSE had raised $5.9 million of a $10 million goal, enough for 5,400 first aid kits, 3,540 helmets, and 4,000 survival kits, among other equipment.

“I appeal to the rest of the free world for which we are fighting now — support us with resources, stand with Ukraine,” Mylovanov says.

When the war began, “We immediately started the fundraising campaign,” he tells P&Q. “We have a very powerful — in terms of capacity — foundation. And we immediately readjusted it for medical supply and protective kit supplies, like bulletproof vests, what was immediately needed in Kyiv. And so all that is running. Now we are two weeks into this. We are shipping already a substantive number.”

‘THE AGGRESSOR MUST TAKE RESPONSIBILITY’

KSE’s other publicly announced project is the Russia Will Pay initiative, coordinated with the office of Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the Ministry of Economic Development & Trade, which Mylovanov himself headed from 2019 to 2020. Using crowdsourced information from Ukraine’s citizens (augmented and confirmed by expert analysis), the project will collect information about damage and destruction to infrastructure that occurs during the war.

Already in the first 14 days of the war, a team from KSE and volunteers have compiled, analyzed, and verified more than 1,800 reports from citizens, the government, and local authorities about damage to or destruction of more than 200 educational institutions, 30 health care facilities, eight churches, 1,600 residential buildings, 19 office buildings, 23 factories/storage facilities, 12 airports, and five thermal/hydroelectric power stations. This in addition to damage to more than 15,000 kilometers of roads, 5,000 kilometers of railways, 12 airports, 350 bridges and bridge crossings. And the damage and destruction grows substantially every day.

It is a colossal undertaking, with immense challenges. Among them: trust. When neighbors go to war, mistrust of information and authorities runs high, which is why anyone providing information to KSE about damage and destruction to the country’s infrastructure is guaranteed data confidentiality. No information about specific destructions will be published — only “generalized statistics,” for as long as martial law lasts.

“We will not be able to bring back the lives of our citizens who died in this war,” KSE announced. “But we will definitely win and rebuild our Ukraine. And the aggressor must take responsibility for all the losses.”

‘WHAT SAFE MEANS IS REALLY IRRELEVANT’

Mylovanov, currently in the country’s southwest, says he is safe for now, but that could change at any moment, he says, as the war expands to engulf the entire country.

“What safe means is really irrelevant, because they’re now bombing, as of today, all of Ukraine,” he says. “They bombed randomly, even Western Ukraine. There’s some saboteurs and special ops infiltration everywhere in Ukraine, but there’s no firefights here. So we’re okay. But I was in the areas where it is a little bit nasty.”

The war is all around. Members of KSE’s leadership hear it, see it, and feel it constantly.

“We were just talking — we have two meetings a day with the management team of Kyiv School of Economics, we have eight vice presidents and we are having two calls a day. And so this morning two of them reported that the rockets landed, one said 3 kilometers from them. The other said it was from her 4 minutes’ drive by car. The third one said that they had the air raid. And they’re all over the country. So I think I’ve been relatively lucky.”

The Dragon Capital Building of Kyiv School of Economics