‘I am a soldier now.’ Even in untouched villages, Ukrainians prepare to fight

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‘I am a soldier now.’ Even in untouched villages, Ukrainians prepare to fight

DNIPRO, Ukraine – People queued outside the large military hospital in the central Ukrainian city of Dnipro on Sunday to donate warm clothes and water, while a priest walked through a crowd offering sips of holy wine from a silver cup. He allowed those who were waiting to kiss the large silver cross worn on a chain around his neck.

Since the start of the war three days ago, wounded soldiers are being hospitalized, sometimes as many as 80 at a time, largely from front lines in the east and south of Ukraine, said Serhi Bachinsky, the hospital’s deputy director. he said. He said the hospital has 400 beds, but the number of injured has gone up several times in the past few days.

It is very dangerous to rescue the injured by helicopter because of the Russian planes patrolling the sky.

“Whatever we can do, we are taking out; In trains, buses. People are volunteering,” Mr Bachinsky said.

Across the street, a group of combat medics, who had just arrived with the wounded in green military trucks, were smoking cigarettes and preparing to return to the front line. He would provide some details about what he was seeing up front, but said he was not short of work.

“Either we fight them or we will all die,” said one doctor. “We are hanging on and will do this till the end.”

Before the war began, officials and military analysts had warned that Russia could launch simultaneous attacks on several different areas as a deviant tactic to divert Ukrainian forces away from the main objective. The result is that almost the whole of Ukraine has been put on a war footing.

So far, Russian forces have focused most of their firepower on Ukraine’s capital Kiev in the north, but fighting has been raging in other parts of the country as well. It has been particularly fierce in the east where Russian forces have joined two separate Ukrainian enclaves with separatist forces, and in the south, where Russian forces have driven out of the Crimean peninsula, which President Vladimir V. Putin annexed Ukraine in 2014. ,

There was increasing evidence that, despite its superiority over the Ukrainian military, the Russian military was finding it difficult to gain a foothold in many areas across the country.

In Kiev, Ukrainian troops have managed to keep most of the Russian troops out of the city center. In the northeastern city of Kharkiv, where Russian forces are pounding remote villages and neighborhoods with artillery, Russian troops briefly pushed into the city center on Sunday, but were driven back by Ukrainian forces, the Ukrainian According to officials.

After a brief respite, shelling resumed on Saturday against Ukraine’s busiest port city, Odessa, but there was no sign that the city was in danger of falling into Russian hands. And in another port city, Mariupol, the Russian Navy’s first attempt to mount an amphibious attack was foiled, although another attempt was in the works, Ukrainian officials said.

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Adviser to the President of Ukraine, Oleksiy Erestovich, on Sunday gave an encouraging assessment of the efforts of the Ukrainian military and, speaking in Russian, made a direct appeal to Russian troops to leave the fighting.

“Like any military man, you know there are a million ways not to obey orders,” he said. “You get lost, you break down, the radio station doesn’t work, etc. We believe in you and rely on your courage, respect and discretion, which will allow you to make the right choices during this stressful time. will give.”

Even in cities and towns that had not yet heard a wave of Russian artillery fire, residents were preparing for the possibility of an attack. In the smallest villages, people were out in force on Sundays, setting up checkpoints and building fortifications with bags of sand, tires and sometimes whole trees.

At the entrance to a village called Agrocenter 2, locals were loading sandbags, and someone erected a wooden cross inscribed with the words “Save and Protect” in Ukrainian. At another checkpoint, someone spilled obscenities directed at the Russian president that has become a rallying cry for Ukrainians.,

Billboards with colorful messages aimed at unwanted Russian guests have been put up across the country.

On Ukraine’s east-west arteries, cars running further east can be seen adorned with the country’s flag.

Irina Kolchak arrived with her family in the small central Ukrainian town of Kropivnitsky on Sunday evening after the arrival of the Russian army from Kharkiv. Although she was seeking asylum to the west, she said she was still trying to aid the war effort. During his travels, he worked his contacts to try to secure medicine for the soldiers, and before leaving he donated two of his cars to the regional defense units guarding Kharkiv.

Ms. Kolchak was excited by the news of Ukrainian successes and said she hoped her country’s military would continue to push the Russian army back from where they came.

“Golda Meir said you can never negotiate with the killers,” he said, referring to Israel’s fourth prime minister, born in Ukraine. “And I agree with that.”

Dnipro was bustling on a Sunday morning. At all the entrances to the city, groups of men were stacking bags of sand and metal tanks erecting barricades. Soldiers with automatic rifles were questioning drivers and searching cars.

They have reason to be careful. Mr Bachinsky of the military hospital said a group of Russian soldiers attempted to parachute on the outskirts of Dnipro on Saturday. One was killed and three were captured, he said, but four managed to escape and were now hiding somewhere in the area.

In the Rocket Park in Central Dnipro, an outdoor display of intercontinental ballistic missiles and other rockets produced by the local state-owned factory, known as Yuzmash, was the backdrop of the city’s mobilization. Men in black or camouflage were signing up for territorial defense brigades that were being deployed to guard the city periphery and patrol the center. Others were collecting donations of clothing and supplies for soldiers on the front.

There, I met Timofey Khomyak, a musician whom I knew from a previous trip to Dnipro. Less than a month ago, we were drinking beer in a bohemian bar on the banks of the Dnieper River. Now, he said, he had handed over his guitar to the rifle: “I’m no longer a musician. I’m a soldier now.”

Nearby, people in civilian clothes were sorting and boxing bottles to make fireballs. One man was organizing others, looking for volunteers to take bottles elsewhere in the city to be filled with the flammable liquid.

They spoke Russian, the most commonly used language in this part of Ukraine. But he had no plans to greet any Russian soldiers with flowers, as Russian officials and propaganda television insist Ukrainians would.

“We are all Ukrainians, and everyone thinks they are Ukrainians,” said 25-year-old Yefrem Korotkov. “No one will let these ethnic Russians come here and do anything. They will all die.”

At 15, Bohdan Smolkov is about nine months old to join the Territorial Defense Forces, so he tries to help out in different ways and joins a group of people preparing bottles for the firebomb. went.

“It is my duty to help my army,” he said. “I do whatever they tell me to do. I sort out bottles; they call me to mix Molotov cocktails.”

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