Much of the scholarship investigating the resilience of the Ukrainian government and society since 2014, and especially since February 2022, focused on strengthened local and national identity, enhanced central state capacity, popular sentiment and the development of civil society organisations. Although very important, these explanations should be integrated with the focus on the preferences and actions of regional and local political and economic elites, especially in those regions that have been traditionally considered closer to Russia in terms of geography, economic integration and public opinion. As a matter of fact, since February 2022 far from switching side local and regional elites showed a remarkable alignment with national authorities, working closely together to resist the Russian invasion.
The article seeks to investigate the nature and impact of the process of decentralization started in 2015 on the preferences of regional and local elites and their perception of the central government. It argues that understanding the formal and informal incentives of decentralization - including possible negative consequences such as a greater concentration of resources in the hands of local power brokers – is an important element in explaining the cohesion and resistance showed by local elites after the full-scale Russian invasion.