The civilian toll resulting from the escalation of the armed conflict in Ukraine, which began on February 24, 2022, has been devastating. Russia’s use of indiscriminate weapons in urban areas, attacks on critical infrastructure, and denial of safe passage for civilians out of conflict zones are among the tactics that have resulted in civilian harm. In areas occupied by Russian forces, there have also been numerous reports of torture, unlawful detentions, sexual violence, and enforced disappearances of civilians. 

This report, Self-Protection in Practice: Ukrainian Efforts to Avoid Harm During the Russian Invasion, shows how civilians have resorted to their own means to protect themselves while providing for the needs of the most vulnerable members of their communities. 

Self-protection efforts have been critical for survival, filling the gaps where more formal protection actors have struggled to respond quickly or comprehensively enough to meet civilians’ needs. Among some of the tactics adopted by civilians are refurbishing basements to serve as safe shelters for their families and neighbors, traveling in groups when fleeing, wedging apartment’s windows with water bottles or pillows so that the windows raise slightly rather than explode in a blast wave, stocking basements with tools like spades and crowbars in the event that a bomb destroys a building and people must dig themselves or others out of the rubble.  

The research shows that Ukrainians have used different self-protection tactics depending on whether it was during evacuation, bombardment, or while living under Russian occupation.  

This report aims to put civilians and their struggles to deal with the negative consequences of the conflict back in the spotlight in the discussion around Ukraine.   

However, given the unpredictable and undisciplined nature of Russian armed tactics, self-protection practices do not suffice. Therefore, the research also provides recommendations to Ukrainian authorities and international aid actors. Supporting civilians in their efforts to protect themselves from the harm arising from military operations is essential. Support can come in many ways, including financial and technical support. 


English version here 

Ukrainian version here  

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