Over the last seven years, fighting along the contact line in eastern Ukraine has been responsible for substantial civilian harm, and civilians continue to face risks to their livelihoods, infrastructure, and essential services. Analyses have focused primarily on physical harm—including death and injury—resulting from conventional military activity, but as a result, less attention has been paid to the possible impact of the conflict’s so-called “hybrid nature.”

Without careful consideration of hybrid war’s implications on civilians, strategies to protect civilians in eastern Ukraine will continue to be insufficient. CIVIC’s policy brief, “Entering the Grey-Zone: Hybrid Warfare and the Protection of Civilians in Ukraine”, seeks to identify the nature of hybrid activity associated with the conflict in Ukraine and to consider its potential impact on Ukraine’s efforts to build and implement a National Strategy on the Protection of Civilians. It explores the range of tools used in hybrid warfare and hybrid threats, looking specifically at activities associated with military operations, information warfare, cultural affairs, and economic coercion in Ukraine. Psychological harm was also identified as a primary form of civilian harm arising from hybrid activities, as hybrid actors seek to create and maintain the perception of chaos both in the conflict area and more broadly.

An effective approach to countering hybrid activities must engage the whole of society and build societal resilience through the integration of civil and military defense. The brief provides recommendations for actions the Ukrainian military and government can and should take to mitigate the risks of civilian harm stemming from hybrid activities, including regular dialogues between civilians, local authorities, and the military; fast and accurate civilian casualty reporting; and further research by both Ukrainian authorities and civil society on the precise nature of the causality between hybrid activity and civilian harm.

Find a summary one-pager for the policy brief here.