UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES)


Jakob Hauter

Jakob Hauter

Supervisor: Professor Andrew Wilson and Dr Ben Noble

Email: jakob.hauter.18@ucl.ac.uk

Present status: PhD candidate

Working title of thesis: A Digital Open Source Investigation of How War Begins: Ukraine’s Donbas in 2014   


My research is looking at the initial stages of the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine in the spring and summer of 2014. Currently, the academic debate on this topic is divided between two contradicting narratives. One side portrays the conflict as a civil war between the Kyiv authorities and a domestic rebel movement. According to this narrative, Russia supported the rebels to some extent but did not play the determining role in the escalation of violence. The other side disagrees and claims that Russia was the main player, who facilitated the escalation of violence under the disguise of a local insurgency. Each interpretation has different implications for further academic research as well as policy making. However, it is currently difficult to establish which one is more convincing because existing studies on both sides are limited in scope and often lack methodological transparency. 

I propose an approach based on process tracing and open source intelligence (OSINT) analysis to investigate the relative importance of domestic factors and Russian intervention as causes of the conflict. My aim is to carry out a systematic review of openly available information to identify the mechanisms through which the violence escalated. The result should be a comprehensive analysis of the outbreak of violence in eastern Ukraine, which situates the events during the escalation of the war in time and space and identifies the causal mechanisms that link them. I hope that my project will not only help to shed light on the role played by domestic and foreign actors during the initial stages of the conflict but also demonstrate a new way to use process tracing methodology in the social media age. 


Since autumn 2019, I have been teaching tutorials in the first-year undergraduate modules Understanding Politics I and II. In 2020, I completed the Arena One Teaching Associate Programme and successfully applied for Advance HE Associate Fellowship (AFHEA).

Academic Publications:

Hauter, Jakob. 2021. “Forensic Conflict Studies: Making Sense of War in the Social Media Age.” Media, War & Conflict. Advance Online Publication (4 August 2021). Open access. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1177/17506352211037325 

Hauter, Jakob (ed.). 2021. Civil War? Interstate War? Hybrid War? Dimensions and Interpretations of the Donbas Conflict in 2014–2020. Stuttgart: ibidem-Verlag. Available via: https://bit.ly/donbas-volume

Hauter, Jakob. 2021. “How the War Began: Conceptualizing Conflict Escalation in Ukraine’s Donbas.” The Soviet and Post-Soviet Review 48 (2): 135–163. Open access. Available at: https://doi.org/10.30965/18763324-20201380

Hauter, Jakob. 2019. “Delegated Interstate War: Introducing an Addition to Armed Conflict Typologies.” Journal of Strategic Security 12 (4): 90–103. Open access. Available at: https://doi.org/10.5038/1944-0472.12.4.1756


In April 2021, I gave a presentation on the state of my research as part of the SSEES Research Student Seminar Series. A recording is available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sLRP5zGE5Z4

In November 2019, I presented my research at the Danyliw Research Seminar on Contemporary Ukraine at the University of Ottawa. Paper and presentation are available here: https://www.danyliwseminar.com/jakob-hauter

Other Projects:

In April 2021, I wrote an article on my research and its current affairs implications for The Conversation. It is available here: https://theconversation.com/ukraine-rapid-escalation-of-conflict-in-2014-has-lessons-for-today-157896

In 2018/2019, I contributed to a project by the Forensic Architecture research agency, which visualizes open source evidence of Russian involvement in the August 2014 Battle of Ilovaisk in eastern Ukraine: https://ilovaisk.forensic-architecture.org/ and https://forensic-architecture.org/investigation/the-battle-of-ilovaisk