People participate in a Unity March to show solidarity and patriotic spirit over the escalating tensions with Russia on February 12, 2022 in Kiev, Ukraine.
People participate in a Unity March to show solidarity and patriotic spirit over the escalating tensions with Russia on February 12, 2022 in Kiev, Ukraine. © Chris McGrath/Getty Images

The Fight for Democracy

18 February 2022

IWPR's Frontline Updates – unique insights from our network of local reporters and updates from our programmes.

The fight over Ukraine is the fight for democracy.

Anthony Borden


By Anthony Borden
IWPR FOUNDER & EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR


Whether or not massed Russian forces cross their southern border in the coming hours, days or weeks, Moscow has long waged a war against the still-nascent independent state.

Armed insurrection and destabilisation techniques, political pressure and manipulation, cyber attack – all these tactics and more have been aggressively deployed for years. Surrounded on three sides by the continent’s largest army, Ukraine is now subject to the extreme psychological and economic threat of a full-scale invasion.

This is not about combatting the repression of Russian-speakers in Ukraine or reclaiming the historic territory of the Rus peoples. It is not even about the failure to implement Minsk, the complex accords signed under the pressure of the 2014 conflict.

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This is about the one thing the Russian president truly fears: the right of a sovereign people, freely associating and communicating, to make their own political choices.

He cannot accept it in Ukraine. He will not tolerate it in Russia (or Belarus). He meddles in it in Georgia, Moldova, Bosnia and Herzegovina and beyond, with Russian disinformation campaigns intent on destabilising democratic processes around the world. And he trains his ire on it – destabilising “colour revolutions” – in the recent joint statement with the Chinese president.

At a moment of extreme pressure, this special edition of IWPR’s Frontline Update highlights not only key issues facing Ukraine; it also platforms its courageous local voices, determined to see their struggle through. We are and will be with them.

Ukraine may be still emerging, its structures weak, and its governance beset with many issues. But it has definitively made its choice to be an open and free European democracy; and that is what is at stake for Ukraine, and for the continent.

"This is about the one thing the Russian president truly fears: the right of a sovereign people, freely associating and communicating, to make their own political choices."

INTERVIEW

Reporting the Ukraine Crisis

International and Ukrainian media need to do more to avoid cliché and self-censorship - while giving those in the occupied territories a voice.

Interview with Nataliya Gumenyuk

Members of the media covering the press conference following the meeting of the President of Ukraine with the Federal Chancellor of Germany.
Members of the media covering the press conference following the meeting of the President of Ukraine with the Federal Chancellor of Germany. © Press Service of the Ukrainian President

"People in the occupied territories have almost no presence in the media."

"As diplomacy scrambles to avert the threat of a Russian invasion, Ukraine is locked into a consuming, nerve-wrecking conflict against Moscow-backed militias."

OSCE monitoring officers speak to a civilian in the frontline village of Starohnativka, Donetsk region. Deployed in March 2014, the OSCE mission is the only international organisation monitoring the security situation on both sides of the contact line in Ukraine conflict-hit east.
OSCE monitoring officers speak to a civilian in the frontline village of Starohnativka, Donetsk region. Deployed in March 2014, the OSCE mission is the only international organisation monitoring the security situation on both sides of the contact line in Ukraine conflict-hit east. © OSCE SMM - Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine

OSCE Mission Pulls Staff from Eastern Ukraine

Some member states have recalled their observers amid growing concerns over a large-scale Russian incursion.

Ukraine: Russia Mobilises Disinfo Alongside Military

Could a sudden increase in fake news be a precursor to real-world escalation?

Pro-Kremlin disinformation in Ukraine has reached levels unseen since 2014, say researchers. International audiences are not spared as studies show that Russian state-controlled media that cater for Western audiences in various languages, such as RT and Sputnik, disseminate anti-West conspiracy theories.
Pro-Kremlin disinformation in Ukraine has reached levels unseen since 2014, say researchers. International audiences are not spared as studies show that Russian state-controlled media that cater for Western audiences in various languages, such as RT and Sputnik, disseminate anti-West conspiracy theories. © Misha Friedman/Getty Images

"They keep us on alert all the time in a state of insecurity and tension.”

Members of the Kyiv Territorial Defense Unit are trained in an industrial area outside the capital Kyiv. US intelligence stated that a Russian miliary invasion of Ukraine is "imminent", but Ukrainian authorities have called the statement as exaggerated.
Members of the Kyiv Territorial Defense Unit are trained in an industrial area outside the capital Kyiv. US intelligence stated that a Russian miliary invasion of Ukraine is "imminent", but Ukrainian authorities have called the statement as exaggerated. © Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images

“Calm Down and Breathe” - Ukraine Downplays Russian Invasion

Experts say that Zelensky fears the impact on the country’s economy and his chances of winning a second term.

Ukraine: Stress Takes Its Toll

Amid ongoing uncertainty, citizens try to prepare for every eventuality.

In Kyiv, 41-year-old Vyacheslav and his 12-year-old daughter Angelina follow news on television about Russian troops' build-up along the Ukrainian border.
In Kyiv, 41-year-old Vyacheslav and his 12-year-old daughter Angelina follow news on television about Russian troops' build-up along the Ukrainian border. © Galyna Ostapovets

“Right now, the people’s biggest enemy is panic in our country.”

Turkey's President Erdogan visited Ukraine on February 3, 2022.
Turkey's President Erdogan visited Ukraine on February 3, 2022. © Press Service of the Ukrainian President

Could Turkey Mediate Ukraine-Russia Talks?

Erdogan seeks the status of intermediary in resolving the current crisis.

Ukraine’s Day of Unity

Government organises public show of solidarity on date rumoured for Russian incursion.

People participate in a Unity March to show solidarity and patriotic spirit over the escalating tensions with Russia on February 12, 2022 in Kiev, Ukraine.
People participate in a Unity March to show solidarity and patriotic spirit over the escalating tensions with Russia on February 12, 2022 in Kiev, Ukraine. © Chris McGrath/Getty Images

"I’m confident that no one will ever break our people."

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