The Russian military’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 led to significant deterioration in the political rights and civil liberties enjoyed by Ukrainians. The numerical scores and status listed above do not reflect conditions in the previously occupied Ukrainian territories of Crimea and Eastern Donbas, which are examined in separate reports. Freedom in the World reports assess the level of political rights and civil liberties in a given geographical area, regardless of whether they are affected by the state, nonstate actors, or foreign powers. Disputed or occupied territories are sometimes assessed separately if they meet certain criteria, including boundaries that are sufficiently stable to allow year-on-year comparisons. For more information, see the report methodology and FAQ.
The Russian armed forces launched an all-out invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, inflicting massive civilian and military casualties and destroying civilian infrastructure. Millions of Ukrainians have been displaced from their homes, and Russian troops have engaged in extrajudicial executions, torture, and sexual violence against local residents. In areas subjected to longer periods of occupation, Russian authorities have used intimidation, arbitrary detention, and torture to assert control over political expression, the education system, and many other aspects of civilian life. Ukraine has received substantial military, diplomatic, humanitarian, and financial support from the United States, European Union (EU) member states, and other democracies since the full-scale invasion. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy declared martial law immediately after the invasion and was widely credited with overseeing a successful defense effort, though his government has also implemented some war-related legal changes that drew international and domestic criticism for their impact on civil liberties. In previous years, the current and other Ukrainian administrations had enacted a number of positive reforms as part of a drive to strengthen democratic institutions, combat corruption, and reduce the influence of politically powerful business magnates.
- On February 24, the Russian military launched an all-out invasion of Ukraine from both Russian and Belarusian territory, striking major cities across the country and pressing toward the capital. President Zelenskyy immediately declared martial law, which was approved by the parliament and entered into force on the same day.
- After the Ukrainian army forced Russian troops to retreat from the Kyiv, Chernihiv, and Sumy Regions in early April, most fighting was concentrated in eastern and southern areas of Ukraine. However, Moscow carried out indiscriminate missile and artillery strikes on Ukrainian cities throughout the year. Civilian and military targets were struck across the country, leaving millions of civilians without electricity, heating, water, or adequate housing. The war also caused massive civilian and military casualties, and millions of Ukrainians were internally displaced or compelled to seek refuge abroad. Russian troops engaged in extrajudicial executions, torture, sexual violence, and other crimes against civilians. More than 15 percent of Ukrainian territory, including Crimea and Eastern Donbas, was under Russian occupation at year’s end.
- In June, the European Council granted Ukraine EU candidate status. The decision was viewed as an important demonstration of support for Ukrainians and opposition to the Russian invasion.
- Also during the year, Ukrainian authorities appointed a new chief anticorruption prosecutor, who quickly reopened stalled cases and launched new investigations, and ratified the Istanbul Convention, the Council of Europe’s treaty on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence.
- In July, the parliament adopted a new labor code that effectively stripped employees of small and medium-sized companies of many legal protections. Zelenskyy ratified the change in August after adding a last-minute qualification that it would only be effective while Ukraine was under martial law. In December, Zelenskyy signed a controversial bill that expanded the government’s power to regulate media groups and journalists.
|Was the current head of government or other chief national authority elected through free and fair elections?||4.004 4.004|
The president is directly elected for up to two five-year terms. In the 2019 election, held in two rounds in March and April, Zelenskyy defeated incumbent president Petro Poroshenko with 73.2 percent of the second-round vote, winning a majority of votes in all but one region. International observers deemed the election competitive and credible, although polling could not take place in Crimea and Eastern Donbas.
|Were the current national legislative representatives elected through free and fair elections?||3.003 4.004|
The 450 members of the unicameral Supreme Council (Verkhovna Rada) are elected to five-year terms through a mixed system in which half of the members are chosen by closed-list proportional representation and the other half in single-member districts.
In early elections held in July 2019, President Zelenskyy’s Servant of the People party won 254 seats, giving it an outright majority—the first time any party had crossed that threshold since independence. The Poroshenko bloc, which had rebranded as European Solidarity, took 25 seats. The Opposition Platform–For Life (OPZZh) grouping took 43 seats, Fatherland 26, and the Voice Party 20.
The elections were deemed generally competitive and credible, despite some problems. Voting was impossible in Crimea and Eastern Donbas. Consequently, the elections filled only 424 of the 450 seats. In addition, approximately one million Ukrainian citizens were unable to vote for lack of a registered address. An Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) election-monitoring mission cited irregularities including “widespread vote buying, misuse of incumbency, and the practice of exploiting all possible legislative loopholes” that contributed to inequalities among competitors.
Ukraine held local elections in October 2020. A plurality of elected local councillors nationwide were independent candidates. Servant of the People was largely unsuccessful when contesting the mayoralties of larger cities, though it maintained representation on most city councils. Despite the generally professional administration of the elections by the Central Election Commission (TVK) during the COVID-19 pandemic, OSCE observers again expressed concern about widespread vote-buying allegations and abuse of state resources, among other issues.
|Are the electoral laws and framework fair, and are they implemented impartially by the relevant election management bodies?||2.002 4.004|
The mixed electoral system for the parliament that governed past polls, including those in 2019, has been criticized as prone to manipulation and vote-buying. President Zelenskyy attempted to introduce an entirely party-list-based system prior to the 2019 parliamentary elections but could not garner enough support from lawmakers. That December, the new parliament adopted an electoral code that partially implemented a proportional-representation voting system, with open party lists for both parliamentary and local elections. Zelenskyy enacted it at the end of that year.
The 2020 local elections were held under the new code, though it was modified a number of times that year; among other changes, internally displaced persons (IDPs) who lacked documentation for their current place of residence were allowed to vote in local elections, helping to resolve one criticism of the 2019 national polls. The TVK decided not to conduct local elections in 18 communities in the Donetsk and Luhansk Regions of eastern Ukraine, located close to the contact line with noncontrolled territories. The decision affected 475,000 voters, who continued to be governed by military-civil administrations appointed directly by the president. In December 2021, the TVK began discussions with the Donetsk and Luhansk military-civil administrations on the possibility of holding elections there in March 2022, but the Russian military’s all-out invasion of Ukraine in February disrupted those plans.
Martial law prohibits calling and holding elections or referendums at both national and local levels as long as it remains in effect. The next parliamentary elections were set to take place by October 2023, and the next presidential election was due in 2024.
|Do the people have the right to organize in different political parties or other competitive political groupings of their choice, and is the system free of undue obstacles to the rise and fall of these competing parties or groupings?||2.002 4.004|
Prior to the 2022 invasion, with the exception of a ban on the Communist Party, there were no formal barriers to the creation and operation of political parties in Ukraine. However, in May 2022, Zelenskyy signed a law banning political parties that justify, recognize as legitimate, or deny Russian aggression against Ukraine. More than a dozen parties were subsequently identified as “pro-Russian” and banned, including the largest opposition party, the OPZZh. Five parties appealed the decision in courts, and some analysts and civil society groups expressed concern about a lack of safeguards to prevent these fast-track party bans from being imposed arbitrarily.
Some members of the banned parties found ways to stay in office. A number of OPZZh members left the party and formed two new parliamentary groups, the Platform for Life and Peace (PZZhM) and the Restoration of Ukraine (VU). These lawmakers frequently voted in support of Zelenskyy’s initiatives during 2022 to demonstrate their readiness to cooperate with the ruling party. Ukraine’s opposition factions have also united into an informal “defense coalition” to minimize infighting and accelerate the passage of laws that are critical to national security. In March, the parliament stripped one national parliament member, Illia Kyva, of his mandate on suspicion of treason.
In occupied parts of Ukraine, the Russian military has used intimidation, arbitrary detention, and torture to assert control over political expression and activities, and to force local civilians to submit to Russian rule. The Russian security services compiled lists of potential dissenters and conducted “filtration” at checkpoints throughout Russian-controlled areas. Some who escaped occupied areas reported being forced to denounce Ukraine and pledge allegiance to Russia on camera. It is estimated that more than 600 people who opposed the occupation were disappeared during the eight-month-long Russian military presence in western Kherson Region alone.
A law that took effect in 2016 provides parliamentary parties with state funding, but it effectively favors established groups. Parties must win at least 5 percent of the vote to receive funding. New party registration fees are extremely high relative to average income and cost of living. Parties can only register with the Ministry of Justice if they can demonstrate a significant support base (10,000 signatures) in two-thirds of Ukraine’s oblasts (regions). Massive war-induced population displacement and human losses in 2022 presented additional challenges to future party formation.
Party financing in Ukraine remains opaque, despite robust laws to regulate it. In November 2021, a law banning politically connected business magnates, known as oligarchs, from funding political parties went into effect.
Score Change: The score declined from 3 to 2 because Russian forces violently suppressed Ukrainian political activity in occupied areas, and the Ukrainian government implemented a new law allowing swift bans on political parties that were identified as “pro-Russian.”
|Is there a realistic opportunity for the opposition to increase its support or gain power through elections?||4.004 4.004|
Ukrainian politics feature dynamic competition among parties. Opposition groups continue to be represented in the parliament, and their political activities are generally not impeded by administrative restrictions or legal harassment. Grassroots parties often have difficulty competing with more established parties that have enjoyed the support and financial backing of oligarchs.
|Are the people’s political choices free from domination by forces that are external to the political sphere, or by political forces that employ extrapolitical means?||2.002 4.004|
Moscow wielded indirect political influence in some eastern and southern regions even after its seizure of Crimea and occupation of parts of eastern Ukraine beginning in 2014. However, the scale and scope of the 2022 invasion and atrocities committed by Russian troops against Ukrainian civilians have broken many of these ties, and the Russian government now largely relies on armed force to control political affairs in areas under its control.
Ukrainian oligarchs exert significant influence over politics directly and indirectly, including through financial support for political parties and lobbying for the appointment of loyalists to key institutional positions. However, individuals defined as oligarchs under legislation signed into law in November 2021 were prohibited from funding political parties.
Although electoral laws forbid the use of public resources in election campaigns, incumbent officials were able to use administrative resources without penalty during the 2020 local election campaign.
|Do various segments of the population (including ethnic, racial, religious, gender, LGBT+, and other relevant groups) have full political rights and electoral opportunities?||3.003 4.004|
There are no formal restrictions on the participation of women and members of ethnic, racial, or other minority groups in political life. However, their voting and representation are hindered by factors including discrimination that discourages political participation, and, for many Roma, a lack of identity documents. Independent candidates cannot run for local council positions in towns with over 10,000 inhabitants. Societal discrimination against LGBT+ people affects their ability to engage in political and electoral processes. Severe violence and repression that accompanied the 2022 Russian invasion precluded meaningful political participation for many individuals.
A record 87 women were elected to the parliament in 2019, though this amounted to only 20 percent of all seats. Local elections held in October 2020 were the first to feature a mandatory 30 percent party-list gender quota, but some local lists did not comply with that requirement. Female representation in city councils stood at 30.2 percent after those elections, an improvement over the 18.1 percent figure in their previous terms. Female regional council representation increased from 15 percent to 27 percent.
|Do the freely elected head of government and national legislative representatives determine the policies of the government?||2.002 4.004|
Elected officials craft and implement reforms, though many initiatives stall due to opposition from powerful business groups and other special interests. The main obstacle to effective governance in government-controlled parts of Ukraine is corruption.
The elected government is unable to exercise full control over Ukrainian territories that are under Russian occupation, which following the 2022 invasion amounted to more than 15 percent of the country.
Score Change: The score declined from 3 to 2 because the Russian invasion reduced the share of national territory that remained under the control of the elected executive and legislature.
|Are safeguards against official corruption strong and effective?||1.001 4.004|
Corruption remains a serious problem, and the political will to fight it has been inconsistent. Anticorruption agencies have repeatedly been ensnared in politically fraught conflicts with other state entities and elected officials. In a ruling published in 2020, the Constitutional Court restricted many of the powers held by the National Agency on Corruption Prevention, impairing its ability to function.
In July 2022, in response to recommendations that accompanied the EU decision to grant Ukraine candidate status, Ukrainian leaders finally appointed experienced investigator Oleksandr Klymenko as the head of the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office, after a long selection process that followed his predecessor’s resignation nearly two years earlier. Klymenko reopened a number of stalled cases and opened a new case against lawmaker Andriy Derkach for allegedly receiving payments from Russian intelligence agencies in exchange for planning subversive activities against Ukraine.
In May 2022, the parliament registered a draft law under which individuals facing criminal corruption charges for the first time could avoid penalties if they compensated in full for any financial damage they had caused. The authors of the draft law, which would apply during the period of martial law, claimed to be motivated by a desire to conserve law enforcement resources and replenish the national budget through restitution from corrupt officials. Critics viewed the measure as an avenue for corrupt officials to escape prosecution for crimes committed prior to the 2022 invasion.
In June 2022, the parliament adopted an anticorruption strategy through 2025 that outlines key performance indicators and monitoring instruments for government bodies. The new strategy reflects and instructs closer coordination among various anticorruption institutions and government agencies, and prescribes public access to anticorruption monitoring and assessment reports.
|Does the government operate with openness and transparency?||1.001 4.004|
Since 2014, Ukraine has made significant progress on transparency, including through the digitization of city planning and public procurement, monitoring of public officials’ assets and lifestyles, and investigative journalism, yet endemic corruption remains a challenge. Estimates in 2021 still showed that Ukraine’s budget was losing $37 billion a year due to corruption. Asset declarations were weakened in 2020 as a result of a Constitutional Court decision; the court struck down the relevant law, and a new one with diluted requirements was later enacted.
Government transparency has further declined as a result of the ongoing war and martial law. Parliamentary committee meetings are no longer open to the public as ordinarily required by law; meeting locations, times, and agendas are no longer disclosed in advance, ostensibly for security reasons.
In May 2022, President Zelenskyy launched the “United 24” initiative to coordinate charitable donations in support of Ukraine. Critics argued that while the initiative was an efficient way to coordinate foreign assistance, it offered the president’s office another means of centralizing authority, as the distribution of funds was believed to be the responsibility of the cabinet, which is generally subordinate to the presidential administration.
|Is the government or occupying power deliberately changing the ethnic composition of a country or territory so as to destroy a culture or tip the political balance in favor of another group?||-2.00-2|
Throughout the Russian military campaign in Ukraine in 2022, Russian authorities openly admitted that their aim was to extinguish Ukrainian statehood and bring much, if not all, of the country under Moscow’s rule. The retreat of Russian troops from towns in the Kyiv, Kharkiv, and Kherson Regions, among other areas, revealed mounting evidence of Russian war crimes, including targeted executions, rape, and torture of Ukrainian civilians.
An independent legal analysis—sponsored by the New Lines Institute, a nonpartisan US-based think tank, and Canadian nonprofit the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, and signed by more than 30 independent experts—concluded that there were reasonable grounds to believe that the Russian state was responsible for “direct and public incitement to commit genocide,” and that “a pattern of atrocities” committed by the Russian military pointed to “intent to destroy the Ukrainian national group.”
Russian forces have systematically destroyed symbols of Ukrainian statehood and heritage throughout the occupied regions of eastern and southern Ukraine, including historical monuments, museums, churches, and Ukrainian-language signage. The Russian occupation authorities have also destroyed Ukrainian books and ordered teachers to inculcate the Kremlin’s version of history, deny the existence of the Ukrainian nation, and cultivate Russian patriotism among Ukrainian schoolchildren.
Ukrainian officials estimated that 1.2 million Ukrainians were forcibly taken to Russia during the year. Russian authorities also separated Ukrainian children from their parents and abducted children from Ukrainian orphanages, hospitals, and other institutions, forcibly transferring them to Russia. In May 2022, Russian president Vladimir Putin signed a law that made it easier for Russians to adopt Ukrainian children; Russia otherwise bans foreign adoptions. The Russian government has also offered payment to individuals for adopting children who become Russian citizens. Some 480,000 Ukrainian children have been transferred from occupied regions of Ukraine—including Eastern Donbas—to Russia, according to estimates in Russian media outlets.
Score Change: The score declined from 0 to −2 because Russian forces have sought to eliminate Ukrainian ethnic and national identity in areas under their control, in part by seizing or destroying cultural sites and materials, punishing use of the Ukrainian language, and abducting and transferring hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian children to Russia.
|Are there free and independent media?||2.002 4.004|
The constitution guarantees freedoms of speech and expression, and libel is not a criminal offense. Prior to the 2022 war, the media landscape featured considerable pluralism, open criticism of the government, and investigation of powerful figures. However, business magnates owned and influenced many outlets, using them as tools to advance their agendas. A number of Russian news outlets and their journalists were prohibited from entering the country. Various language laws require news outlets to produce certain content in the Ukrainian language. Access to a number of Russian news channels, websites, and social media platforms is banned; residents of Ukraine have otherwise enjoyed unrestricted access to the internet.
At the start of the Russian invasion in February 2022, the Ukrainian government consolidated all television channels under a single government-controlled information platform, United News, that is broadcast around-the-clock on all channels in Ukraine. In late December 2022, Zelenskyy signed into law a controversial bill that expanded the government’s control over print and online media, ostensibly to prevent the potential spread of Russian propaganda. Among other provisions, the law allows authorities to close news sites that are not officially registered as media without a court order, and several journalist groups called it “a threat to free speech,” dictatorial, and a step away from “European Union standards.”
Journalists in Ukraine have been targeted by invading Russian forces and continue to face life-threatening risks while carrying out their basic duties. Both Ukrainian and foreign journalists were killed covering the invasion in 2022. Ukraine’s Institute for Mass Information (IMI) reported that 43 journalists were killed in Russian military attacks, 8 while working and 35 as participants in fighting or as victims of shelling. The Committee to Protect Journalists confirmed the deaths of at least 13 journalists in the course of their work during the year.
|Are individuals free to practice and express their religious faith or nonbelief in public and private?||3.003 4.004|
The constitution and a 1991 law define religious rights in Ukraine, and these are generally respected. However, smaller religious groups continue to report some discrimination. Vandalism of Jewish structures and cemeteries continues. Acknowledging one’s atheism may result in discrimination.
In 2022, Ukrainian officials arrested several dozen clergy members of the Ukrainian branch of the Russian Orthodox Church, one of the country’s two major Orthodox churches, alleging that they had aided the Russian military.
|Is there academic freedom, and is the educational system free from extensive political indoctrination?||2.002 4.004|
A 2014 law dramatically reduced the government’s control over education and allowed universities much greater freedom in designing their own programs and managing their own finances. A law adopted in 2017 was designed to align the country’s education system with those in the EU, but it drew criticism for provisions that mandated the use of Ukrainian as the primary language of instruction in most publicly funded secondary schools by 2020, affecting numerous schools that taught in minority languages.
In Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine, occupation authorities forced Ukrainian teachers to follow the Russian school curriculum. Teachers reported that they had been intimidated, threatened, and in some cases tortured for refusing to use the Russian-imposed curriculum. The Russian authorities have destroyed Ukrainian books and ordered teachers to adhere to the Kremlin’s version of history, deny the existence of the Ukrainian nation, and cultivate Russian patriotism among Ukrainian schoolchildren. Some teachers were forcibly sent to Russia to be “retrained.” Parents who refused to send their children to schools in Russian-occupied areas were threatened with fines and revocation of parental rights. In September 2022, Russian officials reported the opening of 1,422 schools for more than 320,000 children in occupied territories of Ukraine.
In areas that were successfully liberated by Ukrainian forces, Ukrainian teachers who had worked under Russian control faced criminal investigation, as the Ukrainian criminal code was amended to regard teaching the Russian curriculum in occupied territories of Ukraine as a form of collaboration with the enemy.
Score Change: The score declined from 3 to 2 because Russian authorities forcibly changed the curriculums in occupied areas, and threatened and detained local educators if they did not adhere to the new guidelines.
|Are individuals free to express their personal views on political or other sensitive topics without fear of surveillance or retribution?||2.002 4.004|
Ukrainians generally enjoy open and free private discussion, although the polarizing effects of years of war have weighed on political expression, especially with regard to questions of individual and national identity. Heated exchanges in the media and instances of violence against those expressing views considered controversial are not uncommon, likely contributing to self-censorship among ordinary people.
A week after Moscow launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Ukrainian lawmakers amended the criminal code to expand grounds for collaborationism charges, including public denial by a citizen of Ukraine of Russia’s aggression, glorification of the aggressor state, or insults to the honor and dignity of Ukrainian soldiers. Free expression and other civil society groups were not able to meaningfully review or comment on the draft amendment. Violations are punishable by fines, imprisonment, and restrictions on the ability to “hold certain positions or engage in certain activities” for a period of up to three years. More than 2,000 cases had been filed by year’s end.
Score Change: The score declined from 3 to 2 because the government used a vaguely written new law to prosecute citizens who allegedly collaborated with the Russian military, publicly denied the Russian government’s aggression, disseminated Russian propaganda, or insulted the honor and dignity of Ukrainian soldiers.
|Is there freedom of assembly?||3.003 4.004|
The constitution guarantees the right to peaceful assembly but requires organizers to give the authorities advance notice of demonstrations. Ukraine lacks a law governing the conduct of demonstrations and specifically providing for freedom of assembly.
Following the Russian invasion in February 2022, Ukrainian officials invoked martial law, which, among other effects, restricted the constitutional guarantee of freedom of assembly. Most public protests that took place across Ukraine in 2022 were mounted in opposition to the invasion.
|Is there freedom for nongovernmental organizations, particularly those that are engaged in human rights– and governance-related work?||2.002 4.004|
Numerous civic groups can influence decision-making at various levels of government. Ukraine’s civil society mobilized significant resources to support Ukraine’s defense and humanitarian needs in 2022. Polling data suggested that over a third of all Ukrainians had volunteered to help fellow citizens or aid the defense effort.
Civil society organizations are required to disclose their ultimate beneficiaries and ownership structure under money-laundering legislation; leaders of many groups have characterized this as interference in their work. In 2022, under martial law, civil society organizations were banned from using foreign bank transactions. However, Ukrainian lawmakers allowed such groups and individual volunteers who transferred charity funds to combatants and employees of security agencies to be exempted from income tax. Some civil society activists face intimidation and threats, and law enforcement agencies fail to bring all perpetrators to justice.
|Is there freedom for trade unions and similar professional or labor organizations?||2.002 4.004|
Trade unions function in the country, but strikes and worker protests are infrequent, as the largest trade union, stemming from the Soviet-era labor federation, lacks independence from the government and employers. Factory owners still pressure their workers to vote according to the owners’ preferences.
In July 2022, in defiance of numerous objections from the international community and trade unions in the country, Ukraine’s parliament adopted a new labor code that effectively stripped employees of companies with fewer than 250 employees of any legal protection—making pay structure, working hours, and the conditions or terms of contract termination subject to the employer’s discretion. Zelenskyy ratified the law in August, adding a last-minute qualification under pressure from trade unions that the measure would only be applicable while the country was under martial law. It was estimated that more than 70 percent of the Ukrainian workforce was affected by this change. The government claimed that the new code was meant to alleviate difficulties faced by companies during wartime, but given that it was first proposed in 2021, some argued that the government was exploiting the invasion to advance a deregulation agenda.
Score Change: The score declined from 3 to 2 because changes to the labor code restricted trade unions’ ability to represent workers and protect their rights while the country is under martial law.
|Is there an independent judiciary?||1.001 4.004|
Ukraine has long suffered from corrupt and politicized courts, and reform initiatives meant to address the issue have stalled or fallen short of expectations. Zelenskyy unsuccessfully attempted to dissolve the Constitutional Court in 2020 after it annulled anticorruption laws, and to suspend judges under corruption investigations. In 2021, Zelenskyy tried to appoint two new judges to the Constitutional Court, which declined to swear them in.
In June 2022, the European Council granted Ukraine the status of candidate for EU membership. One of the key conditions for maintaining this status is the successful implementation of reforms to the Constitutional Court, particularly a more transparent, merit-based process for the selection of judges. In September, the parliament advanced a draft law in its first reading on the establishment of an advisory group of experts to vet candidates for the Constitutional Court. While the group would include both Ukrainian and international experts, it would exclude representatives of Ukrainian civil society.
|Does due process prevail in civil and criminal matters?||1.001 4.004|
Although due process guarantees exist, in practice individuals with financial resources and political influence can escape prosecution for wrongdoing. According to the World Prison Brief, 36 percent of prisoners were in pretrial detention as of October 2021. Judges have stymied corruption investigations into high-profile officials, including within the judiciary.
|Is there protection from the illegitimate use of physical force and freedom from war and insurgencies?||0.000 4.004|
After the Ukrainian army forced Russian troops to retreat from the Kyiv Region in early April 2022, most fighting was concentrated in the eastern and southern parts of Ukraine. However, beginning in February, all regions of Ukraine were subjected to indiscriminate Russian missile and artillery strikes against both civilian and military targets. It was estimated that more than 15 percent of Ukrainian territory (including Crimea) was under Russian occupation at year’s end. Invading Russian troops have engaged in a range of human rights violations affecting both civilians and combatants, including arbitrary detention and forced disappearance, torture, conflict-related sexual violence, and other apparent war crimes. Evidence that Russian forces carried out a massacre of Ukrainian civilians in Bucha emerged in April. Estimates of the number of Ukrainian soldiers and civilians killed during the year varied widely. One figure, from the British Broadcasting Corporation, put the number of civilian deaths at 3,600 in June; by year’s end the number was likely much higher.
At the onset of the Russian invasion, Ukraine’s parliament adopted an emergency measure allowing civilians to receive firearms to defend against Russian aggression. Thousands of firearms were distributed among civilians in the Kyiv Region who joined Territorial Defense Forces to repel the Russian offensive against the capital. Given the urgency of the situation, many of the firearms were not properly registered, meaning the government does not have an accurate account of all weapons held by civilians. At year’s end the parliament was still considering a new law that would streamline the registration of firearms. The trafficking of weapons and ammunition from the front line had contributed to the proliferation of arms throughout Ukraine since 2014.
In response to Ukrainian forces’ successful counteroffensives in the south and northeast, Russian forces intensified long-distance strikes on civilian infrastructure across the country in the last months of the year, leaving millions of Ukrainians without power, heating, water, or adequate housing.
Score Change: The score declined from 2 to 0 due to the Russian military’s invasion and related missile and artillery strikes against both civilian and military targets.
|Do laws, policies, and practices guarantee equal treatment of various segments of the population?||2.002 4.004|
A 2012 law introduced a nonexclusive list of grounds on which discrimination is prohibited. Gender discrimination is explicitly banned under the constitution. However, these protections are inconsistently enforced. The Romany minority and LGBT+ people experience significant discrimination in practice. Roma and LGBT+ people and groups generally only receive police protection or justice for attacks against them when there is intense pressure from civil society or international observers. Rights groups have reported that employers openly discriminate on the basis of gender and age.
Women who left the military have more difficulty receiving pensions, as they were prohibited from combat duty until 2018. Women serving in the military also face discrimination while in uniform.
|Do individuals enjoy freedom of movement, including the ability to change their place of residence, employment, or education?||1.001 4.004|
As a result of the full-scale Russian invasion that began in February 2022, about one third of Ukrainians were forced from their homes during the year. Some five million sought refuge abroad; roughly 13 million people are estimated to remain in war-affected areas with damaged transportation and other infrastructure and heightened security risks, including an estimated six million IDPs. In addition to the disruption to employment and education caused by the Russian invasion, the danger of land mines and unexploded ordnance prevents refugees and displaced individuals from returning home and impairs agricultural activity.
Russian and Russian-affiliated authorities have forcibly transferred Ukrainian civilians, including children, to either Russia or Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine, in violation of international law. They have also subjected thousands of Ukrainians to humiliating and abusive security screening known as “filtration,” placing those who “fail” ideological screening into detention camps.
In early March 2022, the Ukrainian government implemented a decree on general mobilization. The new rules prohibited most men aged 18 to 60 from leaving the country. The rules were tightened in September to apply to Ukrainian men who had been admitted to study at foreign institutions, with authorities citing the mass forgery of documents.
Apart from the mobilization rules, freedom of movement is generally not restricted in areas under government control. However, Ukraine’s cumbersome system requiring individuals to be legally registered at an address in order to receive important services has long created a barrier to full freedom of movement and employment.
Score Change: The score declined from 3 to 1 because millions of people have been displaced by the violence associated with the Russian invasion, and related threats such as land mines have impeded movement within the country.
|Are individuals able to exercise the right to own property and establish private businesses without undue interference from state or nonstate actors?||2.002 4.004|
The government has taken steps to scale back regulation of private businesses in recent years, though the business environment is affected by widespread corruption. A reform law allowing the sale of agricultural land went into effect in July 2021, ending a moratorium. Under the law, only individual Ukrainian citizens can currently buy and sell farmland; organizations will be able to acquire such land beginning in 2024, so long as their participating members are all Ukrainian citizens.
|Do individuals enjoy personal social freedoms, including choice of marriage partner and size of family, protection from domestic violence, and control over appearance?||3.003 4.004|
The government generally does not restrict personal social freedoms, though same-sex marriage remains unrecognized in Ukraine. Ongoing Russian military aggression has added urgency to calls for the legalization of same-sex marriage in Ukraine, which would afford same-sex partners of wounded and deceased soldiers the same rights and benefits as those granted to heterosexual couples. Since the Ukrainian constitution, which defines marriage as “based on the free consent of a woman and a man,” cannot be changed during wartime, Zelenskyy in 2022 ordered the prime minister to work out legal recognition of civil partnerships that would apply most of the rights of marriage to same-sex partners.
Domestic violence is widespread, and police responses to the few victims who report such abuse are inadequate. In July 2022, however, the parliament ratified the Istanbul Convention, the Council of Europe’s treaty on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence.
|Do individuals enjoy equality of opportunity and freedom from economic exploitation?||2.002 4.004|
The trafficking of women domestically and abroad for the purpose of prostitution continues. IDPs are especially vulnerable to exploitation for sex trafficking and forced labor.
The new labor code adopted in July 2022 threatened to increase exploitative conditions for Ukrainians working at companies with fewer than 250 employees, as it withdrew legal protections and made their pay structure, working hours, and conditions or terms of contract termination subject to the employer’s discretion.
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Global Freedom Score50 100 partly free
Internet Freedom Score59 100 partly free