Russia and Ukraine: Civil Society Repression and Response

By Andrew Firmin, Editor-in-Chief at CIVICUS

Over the year since the start of Russia’s war on Ukraine, on one side of the border civil society has shown itself to be a vital part of the effort to save lives and protect rights – but on the other, it’s been repressed more ruthlessly than ever.

Ukraine’s civil society is doing things it never imagined it would. An immense voluntary effort has seen people step forward to provide help.

Overnight, relief programmes and online platforms to raise funds and coordinate aid sprang up. Numerous initiatives are evacuating people from occupied areas, rehabilitating wounded civilians and soldiers and repairing damaged buildings. Support Ukraine Now is coordinating support, mobilising a community of activists in Ukraine and abroad and providing information on how to donate, volunteer and help Ukrainian refugees in host countries.

In a war in which truth is a casualty, many responses are trying to offer an accurate picture of the situation. Among these are the 2402 Fund, providing safety equipment and training to journalists so they can report on the war, and the Freefilmers initiative, which has built a solidarity network of independent filmmakers to tell independent stories of the struggle in Ukraine.

Alongside these have come efforts to gather evidence of human rights violations, such as the Ukraine 5am Coalition, bringing together human rights networks to document war crimes and crimes against humanity, and OSINT for Ukraine, where students and other young people collect evidence of atrocities.

The hope is to one day hold Putin and his circle to account for their crimes. The evidence collected by civil society could be vital for the work of United Nations monitoring mechanisms and the International Criminal Court investigation launched last March.

Read on Inter Press Service News