Democracy Ukraine

A year supporting Ukraine, a year supporting democracy

One year after Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, there is no end in sight to this atrocious attack.

Ukraine's fight is also that of a pluralistic, democratising country against autocracy. Most democracies have recognised this and have rallied around to support Ukraine.  

DRI has been part of this response. While we had to close our office in Kyiv, we continue our work with our Ukrainian colleagues to make their country free, democratic and strong. Find below a compilation of what we are doing to support Ukraine. 

We helped evacuate people, condemned the invasion, and visited Ukraine to show solidarity

We helped evacuate our colleagues and partners affected by the war and supported them to resettle in safer places. We also vigorously condemned Russia’s invasion as a violation of most basic principles of international law, both individually, and together with European and global civil society.

In September 2022, we visited Kyiv, meeting with old partners, state institutions, diplomats, NGOs, MPs and former colleagues. We planned for joint actions, and at the request of Parliamentary leadership, together with local NGOs, visited Bucha – one of the sites of Russian invasion massacres. 

Democracy Reporting International visits Kiev and Bucha (Ukraine) in September 2022

We supported a continued focus on Ukraine’s democracy during war

A long-term emergency can erode the democratic freedoms and institutions needed for peacetime. That is why together with local partners we co-hosted an event in Kyiv titled 'Preserving and Developing Ukrainian Democracy'. Over 1000 people tuned into this discussion on sustainable democratic reforms, featuring Ukrainian civil society, DRI and Members of Parliament.  A follow-up paper on Ukrainian democracy at a time of war is shortly to be released.

We gave greater visibility and advocated for the Ukrainian cause in the media

Throughout 2022, we collaborated with media outlets to reflect and propose action on this brutal attack on democracy. Our colleagues published numerous op-eds and provided extensive social media commentary, bringing to light the less obvious critical issues related to the attack, negotiations, international law and the general security risks from authoritarian regimes. For example:

We advanced collective understanding of the impact of the war on democracy in the region and globally

At the beginning of the war, we drew up five scenarios for the war and how it might impact democracy and human rights globally. We also wrote about supporting democracy after the invasion for Carnegie Europe.  

Throughout, we looked extensively at the impact of the war on the rule of law situation in the EU, via commentary (e.g. here), a regional conference, and a submission to the European Commission on the rights of the Ukrainian refugees.

More recently, and in partnership with Verfassungsblog, we hosted an online symposium, asking ten EU and Ukrainian researchers to examine the pressing rule of law issues related to the war affecting Ukraine, the European Union and its member states.  

We tackled disinformation and brought more transparency to online opinion and debate about the war in Russia and Ukraine 

The war in Ukraine has been dubbed "the most online war of all time". The Ukrainian society is highly active on social media, using it as a source of news, connection and witness account. At the same time, Russia and pro-Russian groups have run vast influence operations, spreading propaganda and misinformation, both to Ukrainian and international audiences.

Social media monitoring of online public discourse

Already in May, we started to monitor social media to provide an understanding of Ukrainian and Russian war-related discourse, examining such topics as ally support, the nuclear threat, Russian mobilization, opinions on leadership and the general plurality of debate.

Debunking Russian narratives with VoxUkraine

We also supported Vox Ukraine to analyse and debunk key Russian disinformation narratives, and looked at the “astroturfing” efforts on Telegram, when such narratives are made to seem authentically Ukrainian. We also supported our partners to train over 60 international and Ukrainian journalists on identifying online falsehood, hostile channels and fake narratives. The Taiwan FactCheck Centre and a French outlet wrote articles on the project.

We argued for the inclusion of a democratic component in the foreign security policies of European states 

Autocracies endanger the security of their own citizens and that of their neighbors. That is why we believe that putting democracy at the heart of security policy is essential to address authoritarian pressures. The government system of trade partners and allies must be seen as a security concern.

We are advocating this approach in the case of Germany’s new foreign security strategy, to be publicly announced soon. To support Germany, as well as other states, we reviewed the approach to democracy in foreign and security policy of 13 countries. We also commissioned nationwide polling asking German citizens how they perceive the role of democracy in German security policy and their opinions on Russia’s war. We also met with the various government ministries to advise and deliver recommendations.

Aside from all the above, DRI has supported state and civil actors in finding funding and designing joint interventions in Ukraine. 

We give particular thanks to our funding partners that have enabled parts of this work – Civitates, German Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Open Society Foundation, and Stiftung Mercator.

This work is supported by