Kiev, Dnipropetrovsk, Mariupol
December 2014 though January 2015
I spent the winter of 2014-2015 in Ukraine interviewing taxi drivers, service industry workers, Ukrainian Militiaman, hotel managers, college students, and many others in order to find out how the annexation of Crimea and the War in the Donbas had effected their life. I aimed to find how disinformation and the use of hybrid methods had effected the Ukrainian war effort. To do so, I took an 18-hour train ride from Krakow, Poland to Kiev. I spent a few days in Kiev and then rented a car to drive as far as the Ukrainian Army would let me go. I had read of fighting along the front and decided that Mariupol would be my goal. I would drive a similar route back to Kiev after some time in Mariupol. At the time, the battles lines were just a few Kilometers to the east of Mariupol, and many feared that this crucial port in the Azov Sea would fall.
Stop 1: Kiev
I arrived in Kiev in late December 2014. The City was flush with reminders of the Euromaidan or Maidan Revolution. I interviewed several locals about the situation, including some ice fishermen, who allowed invited me to some vodka.
Summary of Findings: I found the majority of people I spoke with wanted to move closer to the EU and were proud to be Ukrainians, not Russians. People from taxi drivers to store clerks encouraged the use of the Ukrainian Language. I saw the Ukrainian Flag everywhere.
Stop 2: Dnipropetrovsk
On the road from Kiev to Mariupol, I spent the night in the Grand Hotel Ukraine in Dnipropetrovsk. Army and police check increased in frequency after leaving Dnipropetrovsk head to Mariupol.
Stop 3: Mariupol and the Front
In Mariupol, I found the town surrounded by Ukrainian Militia/Army checkpoints. Most windows in the town had tape on them or sandbags blocking them. All petrol stations had sandbags around gas tanks. The population functioned relatively normally despite a number of buildings destroyed in the fighting.
Summary of Findings: Check out my blog article in the NYU Jordan Center “All the Russias” Blog on my time in Mariupol