Military uniform with Ukrainian flag patch

New Survey from the UMass Amherst Human Security Lab Shows Majority of Ukrainians Want to End Travel Ban

The Human Security Lab at UMass Amherst has released topline results from a recent survey of Ukrainian citizens inside war-torn Ukraine on the question of whether civilian men should be forced to stay in the country or allowed to flee like other civilians.

The Ukrainian government declared martial law on March 8, including a restriction on men 18-60 from leaving the country. The ban has separated families, trapped college students and other non-residents inside Ukraine who had come home for short visits, and also affected the freedom of movement of transgender women. The question asked in the new survey is especially pertinent as Russian rocket attacks continue to kill civilians and many families have chosen not to flee in order to avoid leaving their adult male loved ones behind.

charli Carpenter
Charli Carpenter

The survey showed that fewer than half (45%) of Ukrainians believe that men should be forced to stay in the country, and of those, open-ended explanations of their answer show many of them qualify that support by suggesting changes in the law. For example, one wrote that if citizens are required to stay, they should be training for mobilization, not sitting at home unemployed, and that this should also extend to women not just men.

“Training and training of unmobilized men and women 2-3 hours a week on medical training, military training and actions in critical situations should take place,” said the respondent.

“Over half of the population (55%) either outright opposes the travel ban (28%) or has an opinion ‘different than both options’ (27%),” says Charli Carpenter, professor of political science and director of the Human Security Lab. “Most respondents who chose the ‘different’ option expressed opinions in the comment box in opposition to the ban or suggested policy reforms. Many took the time to express their own personal experiences of being trapped in the country, at risk of shelling, deprivation and separation from their loved ones.”

Carpenter says that the Human Security Lab researchers are still analyzing the open-ended comments from the surveys, but so far they have discovered that Ukrainian citizens give both ethical and practical reasons for wanting to end the ban.

“Some invoke human rights law and rules on gender equality,” Carpenter says. “Others point out that Ukraine has lots of volunteers and untrained, unwilling, depressed civilians do not make the best fighters, that some men can better support the war by working abroad and paying taxes to the army. A third category of respondents chose neither option and outlined a variety of alternative policy idea. For example, one said, Ukraine could institute a rule that citizens must return to the country upon request, rather than hold them indefinitely in a shooting war.”

The survey is the first to capture Ukrainians’ own voices on this important and neglected human rights issue. It is one part of the Human Security Lab’s research and policy engagement efforts on Ukraine, including a dedicated research project on the situation of the nation’s civilian men. The lab also recently submitted a policy memorandum to the human rights and humanitarian NGO community on the topic of the martial law and will be working on a full report on the protection of civilian men in armed conflict to be released later this year.

The survey was funded by the Coles Foundation and carried out as part of an omnibus survey of Ukrainian citizens conducted by a global survey consulting firm, RIWI, who has patented a novel methodology for accessing citizen opinions securely online in dangerous or difficult-to-access environments.

More information about the survey and the Human Security Lab's other work can be found at