Russia: The population of Ukraine organizes the resistance against the Russian invader | International

Semyon slings several plastic wheels on his back and stacks them outside an Administration building in Dnipro, Ukraine’s fourth most populous city, on the banks of the Dnieper River. The building is surrounded by sandbags and the entrance is almost blocked by an anti-tank trap. A few meters further on, in the Plaza de los Héroes, on the lawn, dozens of people fill glass bottles and cut homemade wicks to prepare molotov cocktails. Along the river, a restaurant prepares macaroni and cheese for Ukrainian soldiers and citizen militia. Dnipro prepares for the arrival of the troops sent by Russian President Vladimir Putin. And he does it with everything he has: an accountant who has gone on to wield a weapon in the territorial defense forces, an engineer who has become a driver to deliver supplies, a blood donation network, another who prepares food, volunteers who They build barricades.

The city, with a million inhabitants, in the center of the country, a strategic communications hub and which Russia is trying to surround to prevent the passage of supplies sent by the allies from Poland and of Ukrainian troops to the south and towards Kiev, is getting ready for total war. The image is repeated throughout the country. Ukraine, the largest country in Europe, where 44 million people live, weaves networks of active resistance, which have proven essential to confront the Russian attack when Putin’s troops advance in their offensive and the attacks increase. The images of civilians facing Russian tanks or trying to prevent the passage of troops to their cities multiply.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, whose popularity has skyrocketed since the invasion, has called on the population to help contain the offensive by any means in his power. Dnipro is a city dedicated to it. “On the fifth day of the large-scale Russian war against the people of Ukraine, we stand firm,” Zelensky said Monday. “Every crime that the occupiers commit against us brings us closer and closer. Russia never imagined that it would face such solidarity,” he stressed.

At the gates of the Dnipro military hospital, Elena and her husband, Alexander, queue to bring clothes, diapers and food to the sick. Beside her, a woman in her 50s carries a large bag of white plastic spoons. “I have a coffee stand and that’s what I thought would be most useful,” she says. The health center, in the center of the city, is designated to treat the wounded (especially the serious ones) from the southern and eastern fronts. It has 400 beds, but in recent days it has exceeded that figure and they have also had to use the recovery rooms, explains Sergi Bachinski, deputy director of the center, where health workers from all over the area come to offer to help treat the wounded. They can’t be flown in by helicopter because of Russian airstrikes — the city’s air-raid alarms have become constant music in recent days — so they use buses and trains, says Bachinski.

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A restaurant in Dnipro prepares meals for soldiers and militiamen with food donated by companies and citizens, this Monday.Maria R. Sahuquillo

Anna Fedicheva, a 37-year-old civil engineer, has offered her spacious car to transport “whatever is needed”. In Dnipro and many other towns, a group of drivers has been created on social networks to help with logistical issues. Wearing a black fabric mask, which has a Christmas tree printed in glitter, the woman says that she considered joining the Territorial Defense Forces, managed by the Ministry of Defense, militia brigades whose mission is to protect the infrastructures of the cities, but it was not found in conditions. She, too, did not consider leaving the country. “I try to think that [los rusos] they are not going to occupy us, I believe in our country and in our freedom”, says Fedicheva, who says that, before this nightmare, she was happy with her life: “I liked my job, going out dancing with friends, going to the movies, a simple life Sometimes you think that everything is a dream and suddenly you wake up and no; it is real”.

The table where Myroslav Malynovski prepares molotov cocktails it has a parallel in Lviv, in the west of the country, where Kira Shivenko, a 28-year-old painter, fills bottles wearing a surgical mask and latex gloves; or in Kramatorsk (east), where a group of young people has organized to prepare that homemade explosive that is already being recipe the radios and many newspapers. “Putin thought that we would receive them with flowers? Here we have some welcome drinks prepared for you,” says this 65-year-old retiree, as he places one of the glass bottles in a cardboard box. “We are not going to run away. This is our country and they are the occupants, Ukraine is a democratic, European country”, says Malynovski. “We will resist until the end.”

Distribution of weapons among the population

Some 18,000 civilian weapons have been distributed in the Kiev region alone, according to the government. Now, Zelensky has proposed to release prisoners with military experience if they are willing to join the Ukrainian armed forces. A very controversial measure that gives the idea of ​​the Government’s anxiety and desperation: the Ukrainian Army has much fewer troops than the Russian, also a lower capacity in defense technology. A few days ago, Zelensky also invited foreigners to fight in Ukraine. “If you have combat experience in Europe, come to our country and defend Europe together with us,” he said in a video message. The day before the invasion, Zelensky mobilized 36,000 reservists, 5,000 retired National Guardsmen and another 5,000 Border Policemen. Arming civilians in such a tense environment can also create problems. The Ukrainian government has claimed that Russia has infiltrated paramilitaries and saboteurs throughout the country and vehicle searches and arrests are common.

On the second day of the Russian offensive, when the scope of the aggression was clear, Oleg Trubnikov, 60, showed up at the Kramatorsk reservist barracks in the Donetsk region, in the government-controlled part, where dozens of men lined up on Friday to receive directions and destination. Trubnikov did not receive the call. He has a disability and believes that he will not be accepted for mobilization, but he was in the Soviet Army and believes that he can bring experience. “Or help in whatever way,” he says. “I am here to defend Ukraine from the Russians. It’s the least I can do,” he adds.

In Dnipro, Maxim Shanin points out that defense forces are just as important as logistics. The restaurant he manages, in the center of the city, is part of a newly created network of premises that cook food for the Ukrainian soldiers and for people who have joined the militias and who build sand barricades very close to the premises or protect some of Dnipro’s bridges. The network of 11 locations prepares meals, breakfast and dinner for almost 4,000 people every day. Shanin’s restaurant, the typical trendy wine place with an air hipster and industrial, it is full of sacks of potatoes, bottles of oil and packets of pasta. In the kitchen, a team of cooks prepares the lunches that a group of volunteers put in lunch boxes and plastic bags with a smiley face and the message: “Thank you for your work”.

Some 250 volunteers have signed up for the project, which is being replicated in other cities, says Shanin. “Each of us put our grain of sand. This situation has united us more than ever against the aggressor. Citizens want to work together to help the Army, the Government, the president. Some can go to fight with their bare hands and some can’t. Here we cook and we will do them until victory, ”he says.

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