New Report Details Challenges Faced by Human Rights Defenders In Kharkiv, Ukraine

Today, Human Rights First released a report examining the difficult situation human rights defenders (HRDs) face in northeastern Ukraine. The organization visited Kharkiv city and region in June 2024 to document the work HRDs are undertaking to evacuate people from villages under fire and to report on how the latest Russian advances have impacted the work of local activists.

Findings of today’s report, Kharkiv’s Local Heroes: A Case Study of Human Rights Defenders in War, include:

  • Because of the security situation and Russian advances, international observers rarely visit the region, which is hundreds of miles from the capital. Consequently, the work of local HRDs often goes unreported and ignored, making it difficult for them to raise money and access other resources.
  • The work is arduous. Difficulties include daily air raid alerts, regular missile strikes, electricity cuts, and immense psychological pressure.

  • Since men over 18, with few exceptions, are not allowed to leave the country, international in-person advocacy meetings have been conducted almost exclusively by women HRDs (WHRDs). Many women activists have spent much of the last two years making arduous overland journeys into Poland and then on to locations all over the world to advocate for Ukraine’s human rights movement.

  • New conscription laws may lead to local human rights organizations’ male staff being drafted into the military in the coming weeks.

Human Rights First has reported from the city of Kharkiv since 2017. Following Russia’s full-scale invasion in 2022, Human Rights First has made over a dozen research trips to the Kharkiv region, producing seven reports and dozens of articles on the work of local HRDs.  Today’s report includes interviews with HRDs who are evacuating people from frontline villages, driving ambulances, working as first responders, and caring for the elderly and disabled. 

To speak with the report’s authors, Brian Dooley and Maya Fernandez-Powell, please contact [email protected].


Published on June 26, 2024


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