Defense courses in Kiev: “I will protect my country”

Status: 12.01.2022 10:12 a.m.

Opinions also differ in Kiev as to whether Russia is planning an attack on Ukraine. Some doubt, others prepare for an emergency – in defense courses.

By Andrea Beer, ARD studio Moscow, currently Kiev

Around 60 men and women are training with the Ukrainian army in the sober room of an industrial building in Kiev. “Glory of Ukraine,” shouts the speaker. “Glory to the heroes,” it echoes back. The volunteers are almost all in uniform and have signed up for the so-called Territorial Defense of Kiev – one of more than 20 regions in the country.

Andrea Beer
ARD studio Moscow

In an emergency, the doctor and mother of three Marta Juskiw would also report to the army. She considers the current situation “very threatening” and refers to the development in Kazakhstan – you can see from this how quickly things could develop. “The risk that we will repeat such a scenario or that there will be a large-scale attack remains high,” she fears.

For now they can still laugh

Despite such gloomy thoughts: When the bearded speaker starts, the mood is relaxed. He asks which buildings need special protection. All answers: Parliament, government, presidential office, thermal power station, dams, city administration, metro, archives, yes and the museum. Why the museum? Because there are guns in there, one says and everyone laughs.

Before 2014, hardly anyone would have signed up for something like this, says one of the army advisors. But the conflict in Donbass and the current dispute with Russia are a motivation. Russian troop movements in border areas with Ukraine have been fueling fears of a possible attack for months.

Mykola Sunhurowskyj, a military expert at the Razumkov Center in Kiev, puts it this way: Russia’s troop gathering has been going on for eight years. And within this time Russia had prepared all the necessary infrastructure objects in the deployment area in order to station every type of army group there, both for an offensive and a defensive.

But one can hardly speak of defense, because Ukraine will “never start a war against Russia on its own”, Sunhurowskyj said – “we are simply in different weight classes”.

Ukraine’s demands

Ukraine wants to become a member of the EU and NATO. In the current conflict over Russian troop movements, she is pushing for more money, weapons and significantly closer military cooperation with NATO. And it demands that the NATO and EU partners exert pressure on Russia, including with immediate, far stricter economic sanctions. In addition, the US should impose punitive measures because of the controversial German-Russian Baltic Sea pipeline Nord Stream 2.

The Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Olha Stefanischyna last stressed on Monday to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg that her country in Donbass was ready to implement the Minsk peace agreement. Moscow’s demands on NATO and the USA can be saiddo not “see it as a negotiating position -” an aggressor has no right to make demands until Russian tanks leave the Ukrainian borders. ”

Russia is trying to push through its agenda instead of returning to the negotiating table. Ukraine is a sovereign country that chooses treaties and alliances itself. The Euro-Atlantic integration is not a matter of negotiation.

The Kiev political scientist Volodymyr Fessenko had made no expectation from the talks in Geneva and does not believe in an attack anyway – there are not yet enough Russian troops at the border. However, the Russian contingents were completely sufficient for local military operations, especially for the escalation of the war in Donbass. The Ukrainian army and pro-Russian separatists have been fighting there for almost eight years. According to Kiev and Western partners, Russia is a war party – which Moscow denies.

Prepare, protect – and fight too?

Andrij from Kiev expects little from the West or from talks. The gray-haired truck driver takes the possibility of a Russian attack seriously. You have to prepare for a war, he says. When the enemy comes you have to fight him.

Marta Yuskiw, the Kiev Territorial Defense volunteer, sees her role as follows: She knows that she cannot go to the front – she has children, a family, a job. Perhaps she is also not quite ready psychologically. “But protecting my country on this territory of Kiev – I definitely will. And this territorial defense gives me this opportunity.

Russia’s military might have little to oppose Ukraine – nevertheless, these participants of the course want to prepare for an emergency in Kiev.

Image: Andrea Beer / ARD Studio Moscow

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Andrea Beer, ARD Moscow, January 11, 2022 5:38 p.m.

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