Saturday, January 17, 2015

How #EuroMaidan and War with Russia Have Changed Ukraine's Internet

Kyiv, Ukraine. 6th December 2014 -- Kyiv residents welcomed the 12th Territorial Defense Battalion "Kiev", who returned on rotation from the zone of the fighting with the pro-Russian separatist operations in the Donbas. Soldiers and residents paid respect to those who lost their lives. The battalion came to honor the memory of those killed during clashes with police. On the pavement the form of the oil lamps is the Emblem of Ukraine. Photo by  Stas Kozlyuk, © Demotix 2014.
Kyiv, Ukraine. 6th December 2014 — The battalion came to honor the memory of those killed during clashes with police. On the pavement the form of the oil lamps is the Emblem of Ukraine. — Kyiv residents welcomed the 12th Territorial Defense Battalion “Kiev”, who returned on rotation from the zone of the fighting with the pro-Russian separatist operations in the Donbas. Soldiers and residents paid respect to those who lost their lives. Photo by Stas Kozlyuk, © Demotix 2014.
Although many European countries had a rough ride in 2014, no country in Europe can claim to have had a more challenging year than Ukraine. What began as a series of peaceful protests against a government decision that displeased many Ukrainians turned into an international armed conflict with Russia, formerly Ukraine's closest ally, that continues to affect Europe and the rest of the world.  
Images and posts found on the Internet about Ukraine and the Crimean conflict have left millions around the world in awe. Global Voices takes a look at how the year-long conflict has changed Internet use in Ukraine.

1. #EuroMaidan

#EuroMaidan (“European Square”) was a popular uprising of citizens against the Yanukovych regime. It became the central event of 2013 in Ukraine both online and offline, lasting well into 2014. Beginning as a series of peaceful pro-European protests against the federal government’s sudden decision to turn away from an Association Agreement with the European Union and turn, instead, toward Russia, EuroMaidan gradually escalated into a full-fledged public uprising that ended with the tragic shooting of protesters in Kyiv, the subsequent flight of Yanukovych, snap presidential and parliamentary elections, and a complete reorientation of Ukraine’s geopolitcal course towards the West.
While the role of social media in Ukraine’s EuroMaidan revolution should not be overestimated, Internet-based technology and social networks undeniably had a large impact. The intial protests were sparked in large part by a Facebook post by a well-known journalist. In EuroMaidan’s early stages, protesters used Facebook to organize and Twitter and YouTube to communicate among themselves, and with the outside world. As a mass movement that's still underway, EuroMaidan has a potent online dimension with activists sharing information, discussing reforms, and still organizing to exert pressure on Ukraine’s new government.
Kyiv, Ukraine. 23rd December 2014 -- The Parliament in Kyiv was the scene as activists rallied to voice their demands for the MPs new budget for 2015. Protesters came out against the reduction of social spending, the privatization of state property, and perceived banking tyranny. Photo by  Nazar Furyk, © Demotix 2014.
Kyiv, Ukraine. 23rd December 2014 — The Parliament in Kyiv was the scene as activists rallied to voice their demands for the MPs new budget for 2015. Protesters came out against the reduction of social spending, the privatization of state property, and perceived banking tyranny. Photo by Nazar Furyk, © Demotix 2014.

2. Live-streaming the revolution

Live video streaming over the Internet became a key instrument for witnessing remotely Ukraine’s 2013-2014 EuroMaidan protests. The practice grew from sporadic single-user generated live streams in late 2013 to dozens of online channels providing 24/7 live coverage of events at the main protest sites in Kyiv.
After the Yanukovych regime collapsed in late February 2014, Ukrainians continued live-streaming key meetings of activists, as well as other public discussions about the future of Ukraine.
Today, the independent and largely crowdfunded “online television”project Hromadske.TV, popularized by its relentless coverage of EuroMaidan, has firmly established itself as one of Ukraine's premier media outlets. The country's primary state-owned national TV channel has since carried Hromadske.TV more than once.

3. A new government on Facebook

By the spring of 2014, in the aftermath of the violence that took place before Yanukovych's fall, Ukrainians’ trust in public institutions—particularly the police—had plummeted dramatically. In this environment, Facebook became one of the key platforms for discussing ongoing political events in Ukraine. Indeed, several key figures of the interim government took to the website to communicate directly with the public.
Most notably, Ukraine’s new Minister of Interior, Arsen Avakov, has famously posted daily reports about his activities on Facebook. In the uneasy period following Russia's annexation of Crimea and the ongoing fighting in the Donbas, where Russia-backed militants battle Ukrainian troops, Avakov's regular blog posts have enjoyed some success, satisfying the public's demand for greater transparency. (Some commenters, of course, do wonder if a government minister should spend so much time on the Internet.)
Kyiv, Ukraine. 2nd December 2014 -- Ukraine, Kyiv. 02/12/2014 Parliament deputies attending the 8th convocation, to announce a new government. -- After the opening session, speaker Vladimir Groisman adjourned for consultations. Parliament proceeded with approving a new government. Photo by     Oleg Pereverzev, © Demotix 2014.
Kyiv, Ukraine. 2nd December 2014 — Ukraine, Kyiv. 02/12/2014 Parliament deputies attending the 8th convocation, to announce a new government. — After the opening session, speaker Vladimir Groisman adjourned for consultations. Parliament proceeded with approving a new government. Photo by Oleg Pereverzev, © Demotix 2014.
Avakov isn't alone online. Several other prominent state officials have joined public conversations on the Web, making social media presence a new necessity for Ukraine's high-ranking political figures. Some less prominent authorities are also establishing themselves online. For instance, the Western Ukrainian city of Lviv isencouraging its police to join Facebook, to make law enforcement more accessible to ordinary citizens.

4. Russia-Ukraine online “information warfare”

It's become increasingly difficult to find reliable information about Eastern Ukraine, after Russian's annexation of Crimea and its role supporting the militants now fighting in Donetsk and Luhansk. Often, social media reports from the conflict areas have been the only available firsthand accounts of breaking news stories.
In fact, Internet users were the first to note reports of Russian soldiers posting “selfies” and geotagging themselves in Ukraine, while the Kremlin actively denies it's deployed any troops in Ukraine. Such incidents have prompted the creation of special projects for crowdsourcing citizen reports, in English, Ukrainian, and Russian, about the movement of militia and Russian military forces in Ukraine.
Social media investigations have also focused on the tragic downing of the MH17 airliner over the separatist-controlled territory of Ukraine, providing important evidence of what appears to be the Kremlin’s hand in the attack, prompting a rather clumsy denial from Russia's state-controlled media.
Observers have also noted the rise of organized misinformation campaigns by trained and Kremlin-paid Internet “trolls” tasked with discrediting factual data, while at the same time spreading disinformation to legitimize Russia’s actions in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine. In reaction, independent fact-checking initiatives have launched to reveal false media reports about Ukraine and counter Russian propaganda both in traditional media and on social networks.

5. Soldiers on social media

In the spring of 2014, Russia-backed militant groups in Donetsk and Lugansk seized control of large parts of these regions, leading to an armed conflict with Ukraine’s post-Maidan government.
Given the extreme weakness of the Ukrainian army in comparison to Russian forces, the possibility of separatist tensions spreading to other regions, as well as the threat of a full-scale Russian military invasion, led to the creation of volunteer battalions comprised of volunteer troops and the government's regular soldiers. Maidan self-defense troops and the government's regular soldiers are fighting in the first war of Ukraine's post-Soviet existence. Like their separatist counterparts, Ukraine's combatants have eagerly publicized their experiences via Internet social media. 
Some report the bleak conditions of war, often with a grain of humor, while others update their followers about the latest developments at the front lines, typically discussing the needs of the army.
Volnovakha, Ukraine. 28th December 2014 -- A soldier sitting in the SUV during the control area. In a few kilometers are territory controlled by pro-Russian separatists. -- Ukrainian military patrols, and carries out inspections near the border areas that were controlled by terrorists, near the town of Volnovakha, 50 kilometers from Donetsk. Photo by Oleksandr Ratushniak, © Demotix 2014.
Volnovakha, Ukraine. 28th December 2014 — A soldier sitting in the SUV during the control area. In a few kilometers are territory controlled by pro-Russian separatists. — Ukrainian military patrols, and carries out inspections near the border areas that were controlled by terrorists, near the town of Volnovakha, 50 kilometers from Donetsk. Photo by Oleksandr Ratushniak, © Demotix 2014.
Such social media reports have been instrumental in drawing public's attention to the desperate conditions in the military, creating public pressure on the government to provide more support to the army.
For example, during the battle of Ilovaisk—the worst fighting of the entire conflict, so far—volunteer battalion members and their commanders turned to social media, circumventing the government in Kyiv and even contradicting several of its public claims about supposedly having recovered the town. The combatants reported the battle's real casualty figures and demanded reinforcements. This act ultimately prompted the government to open a criminal investigation into the battle's management, which led to the resignation of interim Defense Minister Heletey.

6. Crowdfunding the military

When Russia annexed Crimea, Ukrainians were suddenly made aware of their nation's military disadvantage. Since then, Ukraine's armed forces—led by the Defense Ministry itself—have repeatedly solicited donations from the public, to fund the war effort in Donetsk and Luhansk.
Most donations come through civilian-organized Facebook groups, private online initiatives, and individual volunteers, who post appeals for additional military funding on social networks, sometimes collecting more than $850,000.
The process has given rise to several prominent volunteer initiatives, with President Poroshenko awarding the founders of these organizations; he's even invited key volunteers to become his advisors and participate in reforming Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense.

7. Internet technology for discussing reforms

In 2014, social media and social networks have also hosted an ongoing discussion about reforming Ukrainian politics and society. After the last parliamentary elections and the formation of the new government in late 2014, many new MPs and government officials have turned to Facebook and other social media platforms to solicit proposals from citizens, search for new personnel, and report their activities. In December, activists even launched a new Internet platform for public discussion of draft legislation in the parliament.

Written for Global Voices by Tetyana Bohdanova. First published on Jan. 9, 2015.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

GV Face: What's Next for Ukraine?



What's next for the #Euromaidan movement? Protests and bloodshed led to the fall of a corrupt president. But now, as Russia looms with military might and Crimea considers succession, there are endless unanswered questions about Ukraine's future political moves and relationship to the European Union. Official media in both Russia and Ukraine is fueling disagreements, while journalists and digital activists are making use of the web to fight back against misinformation and propaganda.
We speak with Global Voices’ Ukraine authors Tetyana Lokot and Tetyana Bohdanova.
Written bySolana Larsen

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Interactive Map of #Euromaidan Protests in Support Ukraine's EU Integration

Interactive protest map on November 23, 2013. Screenshot by Tetyana Bohdanova.
Interactive protest map on November 23, 2013. Screenshot by Tetyana Bohdanova.
A Lviv-based Facebook user, Bogdan Tsap, has set up an interactive map of pro-EU Association Agreement protests in Ukraine. On his Facebook wall, Bogdan described [uk] his creation:
Створив інтерактивну карту #Євромайдан з усіма містами які брали участь. Будь ласка поширте та давайте знати що упустив
[I] set up an interactive #Євромайдан map with all cities that participated. Please share and let me know what I have missed.
At the time of writing this post the map has grown substantially, with users adding protest sites across Ukraine, in the EU and the US.
As Global Voices reported, the protests dubbed “Euromaidan” [#євромайдан]erupted on November 21, 2013, after the Ukrainian government announced it was suspending the preparations for signing a EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, a historic deal that would secure the post-Soviet country's European integration.
This post was originally written for Global Voices, and published on  ·

Follow #Euromaidan Protests in Ukraine

Today, over a 100 000 people came out in Kyiv in protest of EU-Ukraine Association agreement suspension (dubbed #Euromaidan protests). Social media played a crucial role in organizing the protests in Kyiv and elsewhere.

For latest information from social media, go to an aggregator [uk] of all posts tagged #євромайдан. It also includes an interactive map of  #euromaidan protests around Ukraine and abroad: http://euromaidan.eu/#/posts

My own screenshot from a webcam in the center of Kyiv, Ukraine. Approx. 1.00 pm Nov. 24, 2013
For more information also follow hashtags #euromaidan #євромайдан and #евромайдан on Twitter and Facebook.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Ukraine Suspends EU Deal, Protesters Fill Kyiv's Independence Square

For latest updates follow #euromaidan #Євромайдан on Twitter, Maidanua.Org and Євромайдан Facebook page.

Ukrainians protest in support of EU integration in Kyiv. November 21, 2013. Photo by Instagram user zenantipop. Used with permission
Ukrainians protest in support of EU integration in Kyiv, November 21, 2013. Photo by Instagram user zenantipop; used with permission.
Hundreds of protesters gathered in Ukraine's capital, hours after their government pulled away from a historic European Union (EU) partnership deal that would help the former Soviet country integrate further in to Europe and warm up to the West.
The move comes after Russia offered Kiev loans and imposed painful restrictions on some Ukraine exports, which were interpreted as aggressive measures to derail the EU deal. 
On November 21, 2013, the Ukrainian government officially announced that it would suspend preparations for the EU-Ukraine Association agreement, which was expected to be signed next week. Soon after the news broke, opposition politicians called on citizens to join in a protest against this decision, scheduled for Sunday, November 24.
However, journalists, activists and other citizens on the Internet immediately began to spread invitations for people to come to Kyiv's main square on the very evening of November 21. Sometime after 10 pm, people began to gather on Maidan Nezaleshnosti (Independence Square) in Kyiv to protest the government's decision and demonstrate their support for Ukraine's European integration. The protest has been dubbed #євромайдан (#euromaidan or #eurosquare) by protesters on social media sites.
Taras Demchuk, a blogger from Kyiv, tweeted [uk]:
думаю їхати на , хз чи щось змінить, але годі мовчати
[I am] thinking of going to #євромайдан, who knows if it changes anything, but [we] should not stay silent anymore
Yana Suporovska, a Ukrainian television reporter, explained in one quick tweet [uk] that this, to many Ukrainians, was one bad decision too many by their government:
Вперше за багато років щиро хочу вийти на . І вийду.
For the first time in years I genuinely want to go to #євромайдан. And I will.
Oleksandr Arhat, another Twitter user from Kyiv, reported [uk] when he arrived to the venue of the protest:
Прийшов на . Тут @GrishynUA @OlhaSnitsarchuk @nerodyk @ja_olga @sodel_vlad і ще купа народу)
I came to #Євромайдан. @GrishynUA @OlhaSnitsarchuk @nerodyk @ja_olga @sodel_vlad are all here, and a bunch of other people)
User @Roman2the_world on Twitter said:
View image on Twitter
I am Ukrainian and I support EU-UA association agreement Євромайдан . Come together.RT show your support
EU officials were quick to blame Russia for Ukraine's decision on Twitter. The European commissioner for enlargement, tweeted:
:hard to overlook in reasoning for today's decision impact of 's recent unjustified economic & trade measures against Kyiv.
Carl Bildt Sweden's Foreign Minister point-blank blamed Russia: 
Ukraine government suddenly bows deeply to the Kremlin. Politics of brutal pressure evidently works. http://www.kmu.gov.ua/control/uk/publish/article?art_id=246864953&cat_id=244276429 
Russia wants Ukraine to join its own customs union with Kazakhstan and Belarus, which it sees as a potential rival to the EU.
Even those who disagree with EU integration, like Dmitri Pavlenko from the Belgorod region of Russia, were humorous about what they had to say [ru]:
Даешь ответный за немедлен. вступление в ! Геть ! Ганьба подлым предателям- приспешникам Вашингтона и Брюсселя!

How about #майдан [a protest] in support of #ТаможенныйСоюз [Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia] instead? #ЕС [EU] go away! Shame on despicable henchmen of Washington and Brussels!
In the meantime, the number of people on Maidan has reached a thousand [uk]. Soon enough, UStream user КПІ-live set up a live online broadcast of the protest. At the time of writing this post, the number of users watching the broadcast reached about 10,000 viewers.
Twitter user @kraft99 wonders [ru]:
Похоже в может начаться твиттерная революция

Looks like in #Украина [Ukraine] a Twitter revolution is about to begin #Майдан #Євромайдан #UA #Ukraine #Украіна #Евроинтеграция #twitter
Many have noted that this protest comes exactly on the eve of the 9th anniversary of the Orange Revolution, a series of protests that took place in the Ukraine.
According to on-going online comments and conversations, it appears the protesters plan to stay the night and hold their ground. For the latest developments on the protests follow Maidanua.Org [uk] or the hashtags #євромайдан and #euromaidan on Twitter and Facebook.