Members of Right Sector during an anti-government rally in Kiev, July 2015.
Valentyn Ogirenko / REUTERS

When the conflict in Ukraine began in early 2014, a disturbing number of armed groups—from looting gangs to militias with ties to European white supremacy movements—sprang up from the chaos. Although the role and origin of those pro-Ukrainian militias has been hotly debated, one thing is clear: several years after the start of the conflict, the Ukrainian government has managed to stifle the independent armed groups fighting on its side. Its success offers lessons for other countries attempting to demobilize populations after a war.  

At the start of the war in 2014, there were as many as 30 small armed groups made up of 50 to 100 people. This assortment quickly consolidated into five main militias: Right Sector, Azov, Aidar, Donbas, and Dnepr 1. These semi-independent groups absorbed most of Ukraine’s freelance fighters and small ethnic militias. Although each group had its own leadership, logistics, and funding, they had to negotiate access to

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