The Volunteers don’t quit! On the demobilisation of volunteer battalions in Ukraine

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In 2014, Ukraine saw the rise of Volunteer Battalions. However, once mobilised, it proved a challenge to disarm, demobilise and reintegrate (DDR) them. This research asks why state attempts to demobilise PGMs have not been met with effect. Drawing on existing literature on pro-government militias (PGMs), this research presents a theory explaining how PGMs harm peacebuilding efforts, particularly DDR. A four-step process explains that the presence of PGMs means an absence of DDR practices: 1. PGMs assist a government in crisis. They provide military strength, associate with politicians and stimulate popular support for the government. 2. PGMs become increasingly entangled in the conflict. As such, PGMs grow increasingly powerful. 3. PGMs can influence political decisions as they have attained military power, political representation and popular support for their actions. 4. PGMs have the ability to restrain the political will for peacebuilding, hence the implementation of DDR, and the ambition to do so. To conclude, PGMs will, utilising their influence, restrain the political will for peacebuilding, hence the implementation of DDR. The case of Ukraine’s Volunteer Battalions illustrate and support this theory. The core implication of the study is a need for renewed attention to DDR practices, particularly those concerning PGMs.
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