Journalist Christopher Miller Analyzes Ukraine’s Wartime Transformation

By Nayan Seth, MGA 2024 Candidate, The Fletcher School

In the early hours of February 24, 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed the nation, announcing an unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and called it a “special military operation.” Christopher Miller, the Ukraine correspondent for the Financial Times, was on the ground in the capital Kyiv when Russian missiles hit key targets and Russian troops reached the gates of the city. 

As the war has lasted over two years now, Miller’s new book, “The War Came To Us: Life and Death in Ukraine” captures a first-hand account of the war and explores Ukraine’s transformation from the past to the present. At an event held by the Fletcher Russia and Eurasia Program on November 9, 2023, Miller discussed his book and talked about societal changes underway in a nation ravaged by war. “Today, it’s a more unified country than I’ve ever seen. More people are speaking Ukrainian and more people are proud of their heritage, their culture, arts, music, and their leadership,” Miller said. 

He also believed that nationalism was on the rise in Ukrainian society as a result of the ongoing war. He argued that “if things don’t go well,” Ukraine could resemble a nationalistic society similar to Poland or Hungary even if they integrate more closely with the European Union. “They could end up being more of a disrupter, rather than a country that just resembles one of the more democratic members.”

On the question of the Ukrainian government’s decision in late 2022 to pass laws curtailing media freedoms, Miller offered a mixed picture. Despite the presence of a state-led media organization, there are a “lot of really qualified Ukrainian journalists who I think are still doing their jobs.” He also highlighted the issue of self-censorship in a country at war. “There are a lot of journalists that just simply do not want to report on various things because it could be viewed negatively. It is easier to just write positive stories or propaganda.”

When asked about Western media reporting on Ukraine, Miller conceded that the way the media portrays Ukraine “isn’t always nuanced,” given the country’s huge size and complexities. He also cited several examples like opposition in some quarters over joining the European Union and the presence of pro-Russian sentiments as realities not always given prominence in media discourse. 

“We haven’t spoken at all about the people who are not pro-European and are skeptical of the EU, they are a minority. But they do have, I think, some legitimate concerns.” 

“There are people who express pro-Russian sympathy in southern Ukraine and in eastern Ukraine. And if you ask them why that is, because for so long, they have been ignored, or they feel they have been ignored by the West or by Kyiv,” Miller said. 

As the war enters a stage of stalemate, Miller agreed with the assessment of many experts that “time is on Russia’s side” and there could be “more pressures within the Ukrainian society if people keep dying and there’s no territory retaken.” But at the moment, Miller argued that Ukrainians are not in favor of peace talks with Russia. “Everyone believes within Ukraine that any kind of deal right now would only allow Russia to regroup and reinvade when it is prepared to do so.”


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