Ukrainian Donbas: debunking Russia's myths and narratives about the region

Hosted by the Department of International Relations

LSE Lecture Theatre, Centre Building


Mariia Zolkina

Mariia Zolkina

DINAM Research Fellow, LSE

Dr Florian Foos

Dr Florian Foos

Associate Professor in Political Behaviour, Department of Government, LSE


Professor Tomila Lankina

Professor Tomila Lankina

Professor, Department of International Relations, LSE

The Russian invasion, which started in 2014 with annexation of Crimea and hybrid warfare in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts of Ukraine, was backed by a massive propaganda and disinformation campaign describing developments in Donbas as “separatist movements” and denying Russia’s role in it. However, developments on the ground and public moods in the region both before and after the beginning of hybrid war significantly differed from many myths and ungrounded narratives circulating internationally about Donbas. 

Join Mariia Zolkina as she reveals the data-based findings about real public moods in Donbas, starting from spring 2014 and afterwards. She discloses crucial changes of public views, caused by beginning of hybrid war and shows internal diversity of the region. She explores the peculiarities  of diplomatic attempts to solve the conflict within Normandy format on the basis of Minsk accords, and explains why this failed. Mariia will also suggest the future scenarios for the region and challenge the narrative about the impossibility of reinvestigation to Ukraine.  

Meet our speakers and chair:

Mariia Zolkina is the DINAM Research Fellow (2022-2024) in the Department of International Relations at LSE. She is a Ukrainian researcher and political analyst working in the fields of regional security, reintegration policies in occupied territories and wartime diplomacy. Since 2014 she has been producing expertise on the political component of Russo-Ukrainian war, especially regarding the Donbas region, and has analysed the socio-political implications of the conflict both at the national and international levels. 

Mariia has rich experience in designing and conducting public opinion polls regarding conflict-related issues, including in frontline areas. She has been working as Head of Regional Security and Conflict Studies at one of most authoritative Ukrainian think tanks, the Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation (DIF), and is Co-Founder of the Kalmius Group.  

Mariia has authored a number of policy papers and publications that appeared in prominent Ukrainian and international mass media. She also served as an external consultant to the Ministry for informational policy of Ukraine (testing Strategy of informational reintegration of Donbas), and the Governmental Office for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration of Ukraine. 


Dr Florian Foos, Associate Professor in Political Behaviour, Department of Government at LSE. He studies political campaigns using randomised field experiments and aims to identify the causal effects of formal and informal interactions between citizens, politicians and campaign workers on electoral mobilisation, opinion change and political activism. He is also  interested in social mobilisation and persuasion between co-partisans and supporters of opposing parties or causes.  


Tomila Lankina is Professor of International Relations at LSE. She has worked on democracy and authoritarianism, mass protests and historical drivers of human capital and political regime change in Russia and other countries; she has also analysed the propaganda and disinformation campaigns in the wake of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and aggression in Ukraine. Her latest research is on social structure and inequality. Her latest book The Estate Origins of Democracy in Russia: From Imperial Bourgeoisie to Post-Communist Middle Class (Cambridge University Press 2022) is on the long-term patterns of reproduction of social structure in Russia from the Tzarist times to the present and on why these legacies matter for democracy, development and social inequalities. 

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