Wednesday, February 28

Ukrainian Army Reservists Train Amid Border Tensions With Russia

Despite a series of summits this week aimed at defusing tensions, fear of a Russian invasion remains real in Ukraine.

That has prompted Ukrainians to sign up for military training or volunteer to be army reservists.

Alisa Bankovska is one of the latter. A cyber security specialist and mother in her daily life, she has been acquiring weapons and first aid training as well as military tactical skills in the government program that prepares reservists to form the Ukrainian Territorial Defense Forces.

Every weekend she attends special military training to learn how to defend herself and her family from possible Russian aggression.

Bankovska believes that the more people who are trained, the less likely an “enemy” is to be willing to attack.

“If the enemy knew that everyone in a country, well, let’s say that many people in a country, have the skills to use rifles and defend their home, there will not be a situation like Crimea 2014 or like Donetsk and Lugansk.” she said.

In 2014, Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine after the removal of its friendly leader from Moscow and supported a separatist insurgency in the east of the country, where more than seven years of fighting has killed more than 14,000 people.

Now around 20 brigades of the Territorial Defense Forces have been formed and trained to support the Ukrainian army and protect key infrastructure in the event of a Russian attack.

IT manager Dmytro Kostykevich said he did not know how to fire a gun in 2014, but eight years later he oversees the training of reservists.

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Kostykevich does not believe that NATO will invite Ukraine to its alliance anytime soon, so his country must be prepared.

“It is important that we defend ourselves: it has been 8 years of war. I think everyone should be able to hold at least one weapon, ”repeated Vlas Gonchauk, one of the volunteers.

“The NATO countries are not going to fight for us. That is clear. So it all comes down to whether we are willing to defend ourselves,” Gonchauk continued.

In the capital Kiev, old air-raid shelters built during the Cold War are being renovated. Now, the locals hope they will protect them from a possible threat from the east.

“Since 2014, after the annexation of Crimea and the war in the east, we have been renovating the basements. There is toilet paper, respirators, candles, soap and about 68 people can fit in this bunker,” revealed Igor Overchuk, an inspector from bunker.

Meanwhile, Russia has been engaging in talks first with the United States and NATO later this week amid attempts to defuse tensions following the concentration of Russian forces on the border with Ukraine.

In Geneva on Monday, Moscow insisted on guarantees to halt NATO expansion and even roll back the military alliance’s deployments in Eastern Europe, while Washington firmly dismissed the demands as a failure.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow will observe a round of talks between Russia and NATO in Brussels on Wednesday and a meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Vienna on Thursday to determine whether it makes sense to continue with the negotiations.

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