Russia's attacks on civilians strengthen Ukrainian resistance

Journal article

Bartusevičius, Henrikas; Florian van Leeuwen; Honorata Mazepus; Lasse Laustsen & Andreas Forø Tollefsen (2023) Russia's attacks on civilians strengthen Ukrainian resistance, PNAS Nexus 2 (12): 1–5.

PNAS Nexus website

The all-out Russian invasion of Ukraine commencing in February 2022 has been characterized by systematic violence against civilians. Presumably, the commanders of Russian forces believe that, for example, the bombing of residential buildings will force Ukrainians to lay down their arms. We ask whether military attacks against civilians deter or, in contrast, motivate resistance against the attackers. Two-wave probability surveys were collected in Ukraine in March and April 2022 (Ns = 1,081 and 811, respectively). Preregistered analyses indicate that perceptions and experience of military attacks (victimization) did not decrease Ukrainians’ motivations to resist the invading forces. The analyses suggest that victimization positively relates to motivations to join military combat in defense positions. Military attacks against civilians are morally impermissible and prohibited under international humanitarian law. Our results suggest that such attacks are also counterproductive from a military perspective.

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