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This is a linkpost for this report by Felip Daza studying nonviolent action in Ukraine between February and June 2022, in the context of the Russo-Ukrainian War. I am sharing it because I think peaceful resistence should be considered more.


On February 26, 2022, images of Ukrainian citizens standing in the way of a column of Russian tanks in the small town of Bakhmach, northern Ukraine, went around the world1 . These were the first actions with which the nonviolent civil resistance to the Russian invasion began, and with it, this investigation. Like a colony of bees, Ukrainian society has spontaneously and courageously organised hundreds of nonviolent actions, from acts of civil disobedience to protection and evacuation of civilians. Massive nonviolent civil resistance could be decisive in ending the Russian occupation and advancing the process of democratisation and consolidation of a multi-cultural Ukrainian identity.

However, the drums of war have occupied the public debate and have gradually displaced nonviolent conflict transformation and peacebuilding initiatives. The propaganda machine has polarised warring societies2 , obscuring dissenting voices to war. The result is human catastrophe3 , increased global military spending4 and new war economies in the old continent5 in the post-pandemic period.

This report examines the Ukrainian nonviolent civil resistance against the Russian invasion from February 24 to June 30, 2022 with the aim of identifying its organisational dynamics, its impact in the context of war and avenues of support to strengthen the social actors involved. Therefore, this study is not only addressed to actors aiming to support conflict transformation in Ukraine and the region, but to any organisation or individual involved or interested in nonviolent action and conflict transformation. The Ukrainian experience is certainly unique, and from it we can learn new ways of civilian intervention in global crises without the use of weapons.

With this aspiration in mind, the report is structured in five sections. First, we define a conceptual framework of the ideas and political theories that justify the goals, dynamics, and outcomes of nonviolent action. Second, we identify the main background that shapes Ukraine’s strong nonviolent resistance experience. Third, we analise the evolution, characteristics and actors of nonviolent action in the country. Fourth, we describe the impacts nonviolent action has achieved so far, as well as the challenges it has faced. Fifth, we formulate a series of recommendations for political and social actors to support nonviolent civil resistance in Ukraine and the rest of the region.

Executive summary

Ukraine is a country with more than 100 years of experience in nonviolent action. These strong capacities, combined with the informal networks of power at the local level and the country’s vibrant associative fabric of self-organised communities and organisations for human rights advocacy, mediation and dialogue for conflict transformation, would explain, in part, the ‘spontaneous’ and widespread nonviolent civil resistance in the early stages of the Russian invasion, between February and June 2022, the period of study of this research. The findings and conclusions of this report are based on the analysis of 235 nonviolent actions across the country and field research with over 55 interviews with Ukrainian political and social leaders, academics, and activists. Extensive community mobilisation and organising has crystallized into hundreds of nonviolent actions of protest (148), non-cooperation (51), and nonviolent intervention (36). Geographically, the majority of actions were located in the southern oblasts (Kherson and Zaporizhia), which shows the persistence of nonviolent resistance in the areas under occupation. Temporarily, in February and March public protest actions dominated, but they were drastically reduced at the end of March due to the increase of repression and abduction of activists in the occupied territories. From April onwards, nonviolent resistance transforms into ‘invisible’ communicative actions, non-cooperation and nonviolent intervention creating structures of parallel self-government. The nonviolent civil resistance has been articulated in 7 areas of action with specific impacts and challenges:


  • Impacts: Nonviolent resistance has hindered some of the long-term military and political goals of the Russian authorities, such as the institutionalisation of the military occupation and repression in the occupied territories.
  • Challenges: Nonviolent action has coexisted and often interacted with armed resistance. The boundaries between the two types of resistance are blurring in areas such as protection of civilians, alternative communication systems or building infrastructure against the advancing Russian military machine.


  • Impacts: Persistent public demonstrations, even in traditionally pro-Russian Ukrainian regions such as Kherson, with extensive use of Ukrainian flags and symbols, has denied the Russian narrative of liberation of the Ukrainian people.
  • Challenges: Despite its strategic importance, there has not been a sufficiently articulated strategy between nonviolent actions to demoralise the opponent and fraternization actions that could lead to an increase in desertions in the Russian army. Also, despite the fissures in Russian public opinion, for the moment, the conditions do not exist to establish processes of dialogue and joint actions with social actors on both sides of the conflict.


  • Impacts: Organised civil society has built a broad protection system for the development of tasks of evacuation, transport and relocation of the population, including financial support, counselling and psychosocial help for women, human rights defenders and other groups affected by the violence. In this sense, nonviolent action has made it possible to establish negotiation processes between local communities and the Russian army to protect the civilian population and public infrastructure.
  • Challenges: The civil protection system is largely voluntary and has extensive training needs. Conscientious objection and defection of Ukrainian soldiers is a social ‘taboo’, involving stigmatisation and criminalisation. Unfortunately, nonviolent action could not develop in areas such as Mariupol, Irpin or Boucha, where violence and massacres of civilians prevailed.

4. COMMUNITY RESILIENCE • Impacts: Communicative actions addressed to large audiences have been instrumental in preventing panic. Likewise, these type of actions have made it possible to maintain the nonviolent resistance in a clandestine way in the zones under occupation and to maintain the high morale of the population. • Challenges: Repression in the areas under occupation has increased with arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances and cases of torture causing increased fear among nonviolent activists.


  • Impacts: Nonviolent action has had a significant impact on the preservation of the associative fabric, the empowerment of social actors at the local level and the improvement of coordination between local authorities and citizens. This impact has had a direct effect on the strengthening of local governance closely linked to the processes of political decentralisation and democratisation in Ukraine.
  • Challenges: Beyond monitoring of war crimes, and youth volunteering initiatives, the vast majority of nonviolent actions at the local level have not been coordinated at the national level, causing communication problems and ineffectiveness. The tendency to centralise decision-making on the reconstruction of the country in the presidential cabinet marginalises the work carried out, needs and demands of social actors at the local level.


  • Impacts: The solidarity of the Ukrainian people is an opportunity for encounter between the communities of the East and West. Nonviolent action has a fundamental character of cultural resistance, which contributes to the consolidation of Ukrainian identity.
  • Challenges: There are extensive intra-family mediation needs and, as time progresses, there are serious risks of increased social polarisation. Mediation and dialogue-facilitation communities require support to respond to increased social mediation needs. Organisations working on monitoring Russian propaganda and developing new nonviolent narratives need support to penetrate public opinion. Low level of interest on the part of Ukrainian social actors to develop dialogue or conflict transformation initiatives with Russian or regional counterparts.


  • Impacts: The robust war crimes monitoring infrastructure created by leading human rights organisations and advocacy centers in Ukraine has enabled the collection and verification of thousands of cases of serious violations committed by Russian troops. These actions have helped to prevent the defencelessness of the Ukrainian population affected by the war and have empowered citizens to denounce damage to physical infrastructure and abuses of the civilian population through various physical or virtual means.
  • Challenges: The need to strengthen transitional justice processes by including mechanisms for truth, justice, reparation and reconciliation. One of the first challenges in this regard would be to also recognise the human rights violations committed by both sides of the conflict. It is also important to make progress in disaggregating data on human rights violations committed by soldiers, civilians, and Private Military and Security Companies.





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